Waylon Jennings J. R. Young - Essay

J. R. Young

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

RCA labeled [the early music of Waylon Jennings] "Country-Folk" at first, and then finally let it ride as straight country. It was a soft country sound, melodic and reminiscent of early Marty Robbins. Very tasty stuff…. [Around this same time, Jennings] also lined up a freak band and lit out after that rock country sound and incorporated the best of folk, rock, and country into his trip….

The new Waylon Jennings seemed to fall into place for the first time with Singer of Sad Songs…. Sad Songs is a much fuller album than the others, steeped in a true rock/country context: the rhythm and drive of rock, the vitality of country, and, of course, the same monster voice of Waylon himself. An exquisite match. The album makes your head ring. The obvious highlight is the title song,… a neatly fashioned country ditty that literally sparkles…. It has all the spirit that the kids who think they do country music today lack….

Nothing to excess. But then that's what the whole album's about.

The following album, The Taker/Tulsa, [is the same way]…. It's so good I don't even know what to say about it. Music ain't going to get any better than this. It really puts away that self-consciousness that gets in the way of the Poco/Flying Burritos ilk.

The newest album is Cedartown, Georgia…. Another devastator, but not as raw and rock & rolled. The pace is gentler but still out there…. It's this album that Waylon goes after everybody (even your mother) and intends to bring everybody over to his side. It's all Dynamite stuff, as they say at Tower Records. Word is that if Waylon Jennings isn't already a country superstar, he soon will be. And once that occurs, he'll even move beyond the country tag….

[So] if your ears are tired, depressed, and generally down, let this dude get inside your mind and realign your senses. Listen to what a song can really be. You'll get more than you ever bargained for, and you, too, will wonder where in the hell you've been since '66, because Waylon's been over in the C&W rack all along.

J. R. Young, "The Monster Voice of Waylon Jennings," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1971; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 97, December 9, 1971, p. 58.