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Are You Ready for the Country

Waylon Jennings

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Album Review

If the heavy-hitters of outlaw country were acting like rock stars during their mid-'70s peak, then perhaps it was inevitable that the outlaws would start singing rock songs — which is precisely what Waylon Jennings did on 1976's Are You Ready for the Country. Although the title is taken from Neil Young's song — which provides an absolutely storming opener for this ten-song record — there is a bit of a jibe to its sentiment as well, since Waylon not only sings Young, but also the Marshall Tucker Band and Dr. Hook, along with reviving Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park." That selection of material indicates not just the increasing rock-isms of Waylon and the outlaws, it also indicates that Jennings' focus was beginning to blur slightly as he lost the sense of purpose that propelled his records of the first half the '70s, from The Taker/Tulsa to Dreaming My Dreams. Here, the music hasn't really changed, but the flow is no longer seamless and the shifting tones can be a little jarring. Also, Jennings' songwriting starts to slip a little bit here; none of his originals are bad, and "I'll Go Back to Her" is quite good, but they're all decidedly second tier. All things considered, though, most of the individual moments hold up quite well, with "Are You Ready for the Country" and a wonderful, surging take on Marshall Tucker's "Can't You See" ranking among Waylon's best music of the era. There are other very good moments, such as the cracking "Jack a Diamonds," and the entire record is entertaining, but more for a collection of moments than a cohesive whole. That's the first time since the late '60s that one of Jennings' albums felt like less than the sum of its parts, and if it didn't necessarily mark the end of the era, it did mark the point when he started to ease back from his startling peak of creativity.

Biography

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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