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Tribute albums can be something of a hit and miss thing. The all-star live recording has those involved make a good, if not five-star fist of it. All the names are there, but all too few of them get a firm grip on the material. Maybe I am being a little over critical as the sound of Waylon himself comes to mind.
Fair enough if they were found leaning over to Waylon’s version, but there is distinct lack of body and soul to al too many of the songs for me to give it unreserved approval. With that burden off my chest the generous set of songs do include a power driven “I Ain’t Living Long Like This” (Chris Stapleton), Sturgill Simpson get down to the basics on “Memories Of You And I” and Kacey Musgraves (w/ Miss Arriaga) ease through with a refreshing version of “The Wurlitzer Prize”, and with enthusiastic verve Ryan Bingham romps through “Rainy Day Woman”. Loaded in steel guitar (Robby Turner) and lots more (Don Was on bass, Richie Albright and Raymond Weber on drums; Matt Rollings on piano and Buddy Miller on electric guitar) his weathered vocals pull it off in style.
Allison Kruass’ whispery tones are quite well suited to “Dreaming My Dreams With You” but it isn’t till Eric Church via “Lonesome, On’ry And Mean” and Jamey Johnson, with a killer version of “Freedom To Stay” as he pulls out all the stops the show really takes off. You could have heard a pin drop such the reverence Johnson's held by country music followers (he is also good on the bonus behind the scenes chat; this as influences of Waylon, The Highwaymen and how Waylon got started (Bobby Bare) is told. It is a wonderful celebration of Waylon Jennings’ career, and of the man too. There is no denying he was a unique talent, and he had a distinctive style, both as a guitar player and vocalist! Between Johnson, Church and Bobby Bare who does a fine job of “Only Daddy Who Walks the Line” and one or two more there is a considerable gap to one or two other tracks.
While Waylon’s old friend, Willie Nelson isn’t in the best shape on a couple of songs he slots in better on “The Highwayman” (w/ Kris Kristofferson, Waylon’s son, Shooter Jennings and Johnson; he can do no wrong) and the grand final as the whole cast get together for a rousing version of “Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love)”. With those on stage having as much fun as those the audience there is no holding back come the closing number as a true country legend is remembered.
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