Waylon Jennings Nick Tosches - Essay

Nick Tosches

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The] contents of Jennings' albums have often left much to be desired, especially by those of us who tire easily of anyone who apparently feels he must constantly remind us, through the use of literary devices learned from Gunsmoke reruns, of what a tough-ass he is. After a while, you got the eerie impression that this guy actually believed he was an outlaw….

I've Always Been Crazy is a relief. There are still traces of the tough guy act, especially in a title track which finds the singer warning some purpling suffragette of "the chances you're takin' lovin' a free-livin' man" (exactly the sort of line that gets laughs in movie theaters), but I think Jennings has finally realized that at this point, only the Village People comprehend the true meaning of macho.

Of course, the thematic centerpiece is "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand," which deals nicely with Texas chic, ill-perceived irony and Jennings' Nashville coke bust in the summer of 1977. Yahoo, indeed….

I've Always Been Crazy even has its moment of, God help me, humor. "As the 'Billy World Turns" is a tune about good ole country music, with helpful instructions on how to write ("You get a pen and I'll get a paper./We're gonna steal ourselves a song"), how to speak ("fantastic") and how to cut a record ("seven-and-a-half-bar endin'").

Well done, Waylon.

Nick Tosches, "Waylon Jennings' Farewell to Outlawry," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1979; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 284, February 8, 1979, p. 57.