Ramblin’ Jerry Jeff Walker was, is a one-off and there was a spell when few could hold a candle to him back in the 1970s. If he wasn’t the finest barroom, wild and free country music act he was awfully close. His music during the early and latter 1970s hit the spot like few others; if not (quite) as well written as that of Billy Joe Shaver, Mickey Newbury or Guy Clark Jerry Jeff had a charismatic spontaneity to his work. He most certainly helped ignite the flame of the Outlaw era and pull in fans who had either become tired of rock or, had simply found him more inviting than any other music to start with.
His double album ‘A Man Must Carry On’ (of 1977 that was in part recorded live has six tracks included and are among the best he ever recorded) was one I played to death. Alongside those by Guy Clark, Emmylou Harris, Shaver, Newbury, Tompall Glaser and of course Waylon (Jennings) and Willie (Nelson). What more can I say, other than to hear him sing, live Ray Wylie Hubbard’s ‘Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother’ featuring the writer and Willie Nelson on vocals to lend support to the roving, foot-loose ‘Jackie Jack’ and his Gonzo band of Gary P. Nunn, Robert Livingston, Kelly Dunn, John Inmon, Tommy Ramirez and Kelly Dolan is a heap of fun. Others from the album that, hopefully, will appear one day in its entirety on Raven include his dedication to Frankie Ford (‘Sea Cruise’ medley; of it and ‘Johnny B. Goode’ and ‘Peggy Sue’). Walker and the boys crank it up as they loved to do, plus arguably, the finest on the collection in ‘The Stranger (He Was Kind)’ and a stellar version of his good friend, Guy Clark’s ‘L.A Freeway’ to go with another Clark classic ‘Like A Coat From The Cold’ (from Ridin’ High, 1975). If there is a better version out there I want to hear it.
Although Walker was born in New York and started off playing folk music in Greenwich Village following in the footsteps of Dylan, Baez, Van Ronk, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton among others and before talking his guitar up to Canada and New Orleans is very much an adopted Texan and helped popularise the music in the Lone Star State. He may be at times, rowdy sounding but when it comes to nailing and, or writing a killer heartfelt story-ballad for he can write them too and I’m not just talking about his famed composition ‘Mr. Bojangles’. But the likes of ‘My Old Man’ (Walker’s Collectibles) or heartfelt rendition of Michael Burton’s western ode ‘Night Rider’s Lament’ are both a joy and welcome diversion from his honk tonk revelry. Go fill your boots and then check out Jerry Jeff Walker also on Raven! Then there are his 1990s albums from the second purple patch in his career and others from the 1970s too. Go, get busy.
Add a Comment