Waylon Jennings - Honky Tonk Heroes LP

(RCA Records, 1973 - Fat Possum Records, 2013)

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Earlier in his career, Waylon Jennings was told how and what to sing, how to dress, and who to play with. Beginning in the early 70’s, Waylon released a string of seminal albums that spearheaded the outlaw country movement, and left an indelible mark on both the style and image of country musicians going forward. 1973’s Honky Tonk Heroes is perhaps the touchstone album of this era.

Insisting on recording with his live band The Waylors, and enlisting the songwriting help of newcomer, Billy Joe Shaver, Waylon Jennings set the standard for outlaw country. The blending of Jennings’ leathery-smooth voice with a more rocking backing band, Shaver’s honest lyrics about low-living and wandering souls, and Jennings’ new, bearded look all helped to solidify the outlaw image.

As the 70’s wore on, Jennings and other artists strayed more and more from the Nashville establishment and became something more akin to rock stars. Honky Tonk Heroes stands as a classic document of how artists like Waylon Jennings kept the spirit of country alive, recognizing that the times were changing, Jennings and his friends (as shown on the iconic album cover) were more than happy to keep up, and make some changes of their own.