Thursday, November 2, 2006
WAYLON JENNINGS | Nashville Rebel |RCA Nashville/Legacy
Waylon Jennings’ rebellious years came in the ‘70s, when he and Willie Nelson popularized Outlaw music and its cocaine-fueled lifestyle. Jennings bucked the RCA production team that oversaw his early albums, demanded control of his sound, and broke the studio system that gripped Music City.
His mutiny led to a remarkable string of great albums in the mid-1970s—Lonesome, On’ry and Mean, Honky Tonk Heroes, This Time, and the classic Ramblin’ Man. By the 1980s, however, the writing quality dipped and his records became dulled by an overabundance of bass and predictability.
The first two discs in this four CD box set cover the years from 1958 to 1974 and are chock full of re-mastered wonderfulness from a time when Chet Atkins still controlled the RCA sound and Jennings was choosing jewels from Music City’s best songwriters. Disc three covers the standard Outlaw hits, remakes like “T For Texas,” and his thump-thump period characterized by “Are You Ready For The Country.” Disc four lovingly caps this collection with an assortment of duets, performed with wife Jessi Colter, Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Cash, and, of course, Nelson, who sang with Waylon better than anybody. People who loved Waylon get goose bumps when they hear the album’s final song, “I Do Believe,” written and recorded late in his career and showing a man coming to grips with his fate and his hard-to define spirituality. It’s the perfect finale.
Fans who bought the 1993 two-disc box set, Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line: The RCA Years, might be frustrated by the number of repeat songs on this new compilation, but it’s hard to imagine a better retrospective of Jennings’ career than the 92-song Nashville Rebel. —Jeff Prince
AMY MILLAN | Honey From the Tombs | Arts & Crafts
Amy Millan, the elfish voice behind Montreal sonic pop band Stars and collaborator with Broken Social Scene, worked for three years on her debut solo album, and surprisingly, Honey From the Tombs is the furthest thing from indie rock. Millan has leapt out of her comfort zone with a bluegrass folk album, a mix of Edie Brickell and Allison Krauss.
As the album progresses from country ballad (opener “Losin You”) to acoustic twang (“He Brings Out the Whiskey in Me”), Millan morphs from a skinny-jeans hipster to a linen-wearing chanteuse. When “Hardhearted (Ode to Thoreau)” hints at overplaying, Dan Whiteley’s mandolin and Stars cohort Evan Cranley’s dobro pass the bottle and save it. The long stretches somehow become calm space under the weight of Millan’s ghostly presence.
It might take a hard swallow to understand the mighty genre-jump of an indie princess, but it takes determination to go through with it. It ain’t perfect, but Millan just might find herself a hearty welcome down South. —Darcie Stevens
LOS TRES | Hagalo Usted Mismo | Nacional
This Chilean alt-rock collective was one of the biggest in Latin America during their original run in the ’90s. Though the fire had fizzled out by the time they folded up their tent in 2000, a 2002 tribute EP by Mexican rockers Café Tacuba was evidence of their impact.
Hagalo Usted Mismo is an album of all-new material, recorded earlier this year after the group reunited. Fusing elements of the various phases Los Tres experimented with in their prime—traditional sounds, jazzy flourishes and straight-up rock & roll—along with a certain restrained maturity, Hagalo doesn’t bristle with the fire of their earlier releases. But it does breathe with the relaxed confidence that comes from having years of experience and respect under their belt. —Jason Ferguson