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I've Always Been Crazy

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Album Review

By 1978 Waylon Jennings had been through the wringer with his position as one of the most visible "outlaw" country stars: he'd been busted for drugs and was addicted to both cocaine and alcohol and was tired of the hype surrounding Nashville's co-opting what he, Willie Nelson, and a handful of others started in the name of greater artistic control. I've Always Been Crazy is his first "political" statement about his feelings. And while it may not be as great an album as Ol' Waylon or Dreaming My Dreams, it's still a fine one. With a cast of players that includes the great Tony Joe White, Ralph Mooney, Carter Robertson, Reggie Young, and Bee Spears, the band assembled here smokes. In addition to the title track, this set also features the classic "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Outta Hand." But even though these two cuts would have been worth the purchase of the album, the rest is nothing to dismiss. There are fine covers of a medley of Buddy Holly hits, a poignant, barely disguised ode to old friend and rambling mate Billy Joe Shaver, the glorious "A Long Time Ago," and the outlaw shuffle "As the 'Billy World Turns." There are also fine, heartfelt covers of Merle Haggard's "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down" and Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line." The set closes with a pair of ballads, which is uncharacteristic of Jennings during this period; there's "Girl I Can Tell (You're Trying to Work It Out)," with its folk song melody and country music bridge. And finally, the four-and-a-half-minute "Whistlers and Jugglers," a broken love song by Shel Silverstein that talks of surrender and loss so poignant and sharp, it numbers among Jennings' finer performances of the late '70s. In all, I've Always Been Crazy is a solid recording, still possessing the piss and vinegar of Jennings' best work with a deeper lyrical edge on most tracks. In fact, despite its obvious origins, the Holly medley is the only thing that keeps the album from being as stellar as the aforementioned ones. Nonetheless, this is necessary for any fan of outlaw country in general and Jennings in particular. As a perverse side note, it inexplicably took BMG until 2004 to issue this record on CD.

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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