My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Waylon Jennings – ‘Honky Tonk Heroes’

honky tonk heroesWaylon’s 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes was his tribute to the songs of hellraising singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver, who was new to Nashville and wrote every song but one. The songs proved ideally suited to Waylon’s increasingly rebellious persona.

The one non-Shaver tune, ‘We Had It All’, perhaps included as a more commercial option for a single, was only a modest hit, sneaking into the top 30. A fairly heavily strung emotional ballad penned by Troy Seals and Donnie Fritts, it is well sung by Waylon, but the arrangement makes it feel out of place on this particular album.

The mid-tempo ‘You Ask Me To’, a Jennings/Shaver co-write, was more successful, peaking at #8. It is a charming declaration of unconditional love, which was also picked up by Elvis Presley.

The rollicking harmonica-led title track pays cheerful tribute to those

“Lovable losers, no account boozers
And honky tonk heroes like me”

The more subdued and regretful steel-laced ballad ‘Old Five And Dimers (Like Me)’ is perhaps the best song on the album. It also served as the title track for Shaver’s own debut album the same year, which included the writer’s take on a number of the songs chosen here.

‘Willy The Wandering Gypsy And Me’ paints the portrait of a pair of wild-living ramblers, following the mantra,

“Movin’ is the closest thing to bein’ free”.

The same theme is visited in ‘Low Down Freedom’, with the narrator ready to run out on his latest girl, despite realising his quest for “freedom” has actually cost him “everything I’ll ever lose”.

Shaver wrote ‘Omaha’ with Hillman Hall (brother of the more famous Tom T.). The roamer in this song has started to feel homesick for Nebraska after a spell in California, part of it in jail, and is going back home. Another jailbird, the protagonist of ‘Ain’t No God In Mexico’ finds himself in trouble south of the border.

‘Ride Me Down Easy’ is yet another song about the hardships of a good hearted rambling man’s life:

It’s been a good month of Sundays and a guitar to go
Had a tall drink of yesterday’s wine
Left a lot of good friends some sheeps in the wind
And satisfied women behind.

Ride me down easy Lord, ride me on down
Leave word in the dust where I lay
Say I’m easy, come easy go
And easy to love when I stay

’Black Rose’ is a dramatic story song about temptation and sin:

When the Devil made that woman
Lord, he threw the pattern away
She were built for speed
With the tools You need
To make a new fool every day.

Way down deep and dirty
On the darker side of shame
I caught a cane cuttin’ man and a bottle of gin
With a rose of a different name.

The Devil made me do it the first time
The second time I done it on my own
Lord, put a handle on a simple headed man
Help me leave that black rose alone.

This classic album is the real dawn of Waylon the “Outlaw”. It is also a genuinely great record which deserves to be heard.

Grade: A+

Advertisements

3 responses to “Album Review: Waylon Jennings – ‘Honky Tonk Heroes’

  1. paul w dennis August 28, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Definite A+

    “Willie The Wandering Gypsy and Me” is my favorite, but the whole album is good

  2. Luckyoldsun August 28, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    My favorite song on the album is “Black Rose”–But I was always wondering what the hell is a domineker hen? A couple of years ago, I Googled “dominerer hen,” but it did no good. All that came up was the Billy Joe Shaver lyric.But I still couldn’t believe that Billy Joe would have simply made up the word from nothing while writing a song.
    Before posting here, I decided to Google it again. Damned if Google’s algorithm didn’t change!
    Now when you Google Domineker hen, you find that it’s a bastardization of “Dominique.” Apparently, Dominique Chicken is a recognized term and even has a Wikipedia listing. Per Wiki: “The Dominique, also known as Dominicker or Pilgrim Fowl, is a breed of … Dominique hens tend to be calm, personable birds (a desirable trait in an egg …”
    Mystery solved. Billy Joe didn’t just make it up.
    You learn something new every day.

  3. Jacqueline Duke April 13, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Who are the guys on the cover. I know Billy Joe and waylon. Is that Tony Joe or guy clark?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: