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Singer of Sad Songs

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Album Review

In late 1969, Waylon Jennings was wrapping up his tenure with producer Danny Davis and threw in his lot with Lee Hazlewood. Singer of Sad Songs features a title cut produced by the former, with the rest of the album done by the latter. It was, up to that time, Waylon's most compelling album, and stands the test of time based not only on Hazlewood's sympathetic ear and visionary sense of keeping Jennings at the dead center of his mix, but also in the selection of material, which proved to be pivotal for this stage of Jennings' career and the universe that would begin to take place in earnest in early 1972. Here with a host of musicians that includes Reggie Young, Sonny Curtis, Ronnie Dyson, and Randy Meisner is a cycle of songs that over three decades later still sounds electrifying for its poignancy, musical dynamics, and group interplay. From the title track to a rollicking cover of George Jones' "Ragged But Right," an open and moving reading of Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter," Utah Phillips' "Rock, Salt and Nails," and Rolling Stones's "Honky Tonk Woman," Jennings and Hazlewood up the rock & roll ante in Jennings' sound. Up to three and four guitars play on each track, with Hazlewood stripping everything back while adding the layers of phase and reverb that would become signifiers of Jennings' trademark. The performances here are suave but not smooth, moving but far from melodramatic. In fact, they are archetypal — if not overly rowdy — readings of the renegade freedom songs that literally spawned the outlaw generation's reliance on anthems of alienated individuals at odds with everything and everyone, yet still seeking purpose and a way home from the edge of a drifting way of life. Singer of Sad Songs is a myth, one of the hardest of Jennings' records to find, despite its great historical and musical — not to mention pleasurable — significance.


Born: 15 June 1937 in Littlefield, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

If any one performer personified the outlaw country movement of the '70s, it was Waylon Jennings. Though he had been a professional musician since the late '50s, it wasn't until the '70s that Waylon, with his imposing baritone and stripped-down, updated honky tonk, became a superstar. Jennings rejected the conventions of Nashville, refusing to record with the industry's legions of studio musicians and insisting that his music never resemble the string-laden, pop-inflected sounds that were coming...
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Singer of Sad Songs, Waylon Jennings
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