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Honky Tonk Heroes

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Album Review

When Waylon Jennings hooked up with songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, he found the perfect author for his obsessions, his fascinations, and his very image. Waylon had always been looking, perhaps unintentionally, for a common ground between country and rock, and Shaver's songs — sketching an outlaw stance with near defiance and borrowing rock attitude to create the hardest country tunes imaginable — were perfect. On his previous album, Waylon had sung that "ladies love outlaws," but now he found the music that would soon be called outlaw country, a defiant, ballsy blend of mythmaking and truth-telling. Shaver never had a better voice for his songs, and Jennings never had better songs for his style. Honky Tonk Heroes arrived at a crucial moment, a time when true honky tonk was fading, so only a dose of rock & roll could save it. And, no matter how much rock attitude is here, this is pure country in its stance and attitude — yet Honky Tonk Heroes' very defiance makes it a perfect discovery album for listeners who never thought they would like country music. And the songs! Shaver earned his stripes here, with songs that were emotional, funny, and clever, utterly bringing the mythic outlaw ethic to life. "Black Rose," "You Asked Me To," and "Honky Tonk Heroes" remain among the greatest things Waylon ever cut, and every other song here matches them. Few country albums have ever been this consistent, and few records, from any genre, have been as consistently compelling. A wonderful album — one that's hard to tire of.

Customer Reviews

The greatest.

I can't believe nobody has reviewed this album yet.Waylon Jennings is widely known as one of the greatest "outlaw" country artists of all time.This album was almost entirely written by Billy Joe shaver (outstanding outlaw country artist,hillbilly poet).Shavers writing and Waylon's performance = an absolute classic and Waylon's best work in my opinion.

Lyrical Masterpiece

The lyrics to every song are excellent along with the performance of Waylon at his best.

The LP apex of hillbilly music

Simply one of the greatest albums ever recorded, and easily the single finest country offering. 5 stars is an insult. Billy Joe Shavers stunningly evocative lyrical flourishes, drowning in working class pathos, converge with Waylon's easy as the summer breeze - Evan Williams soaked vocals (over a gritty yet adroit band, highlighted by the pedal-steel work of Mooney the great) to pass gorgeously beyond the trappings of the Nashville 3x5 card. This album is the great game changer that saved the genre from interloping, egomaniacal producers. If I have one complaint (dare I?) it's the producer (or whomever) who does a wonderful job capturing the essence of this mans talents yet faids the instrumentals out at the end of 3 songs, just as they are really making sparks fly (there is a fiddle vs pedal stell battle that is criminally truncated). I cannot imagine a human (a creature endowed with a soul) who could dislike this masterpiece, where all the elements seemed to meet and cooperate in time.


Born: June 15, 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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