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Honky Tonk Heroes
According to legend, it was at Willie Nelson's Fourth of July picnic when Waylon Jennings drunkenly promised a nobody named Billy Joe Shaver that he'd record a whole album of his songs. Apparently it wasn't until Shaver th... more »
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According to legend, it was at Willie Nelson's Fourth of July picnic when Waylon Jennings drunkenly promised a nobody named Billy Joe Shaver that he'd record a whole album of his songs. Apparently it wasn't until Shaver threatened physical violence on Jennings (in front of a Nashville studio full of people) that he finally made good on his promise, although Jennings had only recently been granted full artistic control by RCA. The result was a stunning achievement: 1973's Honky Tonk Heroes was the defining record of the anti-Nashville Outlaw movement--the term came after the album--and a cornerstone in country music history. Featuring bare-bones production and plainspoken, hard-nosed lyrics that celebrated personal freedoms and simple pleasures, the record was a far cry from the demure Nashville Sound. In each other, Jennings and Shaver had found a kindred spirit, and together they rewrote the country rulebook. --Marc Greilsamer
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Country and folk meet in hillbilly heaven
Jerome Clark | Canby, Minnesota | 08/25/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Country music's long slide into pop-pap drool was arrested for one glorious moment when this wonderful album came out more than two and a half decades ago. It felt like fresh air, and if anything, the air it exudes now -- when nearly all of Nashville music seems hellbent on a grotesque race to the bottom -- is even more invigorating. There was a time when country music and folk music were nearly synonymous, and Honky Tonk Heroes, with its spare arrangements, melodies cut close to the bone, and wide-open landscapes, tells you what might have happened if the two genres had kept company and learned from each other. This is American music as good as it gets. "Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me" and "Ride Me Down Easy" are the deeply moving anthems I remember them to be, back in the days when I was playing the vinyl version down to the grooves. And now, many years later, I finally get the wornout-shoe wisdom of "Old Five and Dimers (Like Me)." If they'd never done another record or sung or written another song, Honky Tonk Heroes would have assured Waylon Jennings and Billy Joe Shaver their places in hillbilly heaven."
The Best Country Album Ever Recorded
hyperbolium | 01/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Period. This is the best country album I have ever heard. It was good in 1973 when it came out and it is good in 2000. Good music doesn't go bad because of time, and this is the best country album ever recorded. It is complete. These songs are so much more developed, so much more emotional, so much more REAL than the tripe you hear today. Country singers today can't fathom making a country record with this much guts."
A musical landmark
hyperbolium | Earth, USA | 02/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After a tough contract renegotiation, Jennings was truly free of the Nashville machine. Free to produce his own records, free to say what he wanted, and free to record what and where he pleased. The full fruition of these freedoms can be found on this landmark 1973 release.It's surprising to find that this most un-Nashville album was recorded at the very heart of all that Jennings was rebelling against musically: RCA's "Nashville Sound" studio. That it sounds absolutely nothing like the prevailing Nashville pop is a tribute to Jennings, his co-producer (Tompall Glaser), his band (The Waylors), his songwriter for this album (Billy Joe Shaver), and the sympathetic players Jennings brought in for the sessions. A further surprise is the lengthy list of musicians, given the relative spareness of the productions.Whether or not the legend of a drunk Jennings promising Shaver he'd record his songs is true, it's clear that no other songwriter of the day so vividly captured the singer's ethos. The songs combine outlaw rebellion, mythical storytelling, and a sense of all-out relief at being able to finally say what's on one's mind. Its sentiments, couched in minimal arrangements, remain as salty and vibrant as the day they were recorded.Buddha's reissue adds two bonus tracks to the original ten: Shaver's "Slow Rollin' Low" and the single version of Shaver & Jennings' "You Ask Me To," both of which match the quality of the original LP lineup. The original liner notes (by Roger Schutt) are augmented by a 1999 essay from Rich Kienzle that adds an excellent historical perspective."