Waylon Jennings Ken Tucker - Essay

Ken Tucker

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Waylon's main problem has always been the unevenness of his material; while [Are You Ready for the Country] is better than his last few efforts, it still stumbles badly in a few places. Waylon is a sucker for the sort of romantic, hard-boiled poesy that people such as Billy Joe Shaver and Shel Silverstein turn out like poker hands…. Waylon's songwriting suffers from this approach as well, and three of his four compositions on Are You Ready are more or less disposable. But the fourth, "I'll Go Back to Her," is one of the album's triumphs, just a good, lean love song.

Part of Jennings's attractiveness and value is his willingness to blend a couple of the rock culture's pleasures—fast, loud music and a reckless demeanor—with country's more precise discipline and tradition. But he has no instinct for rock music….

Another matter is the persistence of the style from which Jennings, Willie Nelson, et al., are supposed to be rebelling…. [Their] subject matter and melodies are really no different from those of Ray Price and other progressive boys. This residue of sentimentality tends to draw them more to folk music forms than to the cynical, coarse rock they feign to embrace.

Ken Tucker, "'Are You Ready for the Country'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1976; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 222, September 23, 1976, p. 115.