The late country icon Waylon Jennings pioneered the "outlaw" country sound and inspired countless artists to delve into his soulful style. Here's a quick look at some of the Waylon Jennings tributes from over the years...

Waylon Jennings: 1960-79 | 1980-On | Best-Ofs | Tributes & Links

An iffy major label tribute to the late, great Waylon Jennings. It's fitting that Waylon's longtime label, RCA, should host a tribute to the old guy, but it's kinda sad that this is the best they could do. Most of these modern artists simply slaughter the songs with brisk, thoughtless overkill. The disc opens with John Mellencamp (still in the midst of his back-to-roots kick) tromping out a so-so version of "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way," which -- as it turns out -- is one of the better performances on the album. Many artists I'd have thought would show more affinity for Waylon's subtle side -- Deana Carter or Sara Evans, for instance, or Brooks & Dunn -- either gallumpf to the finish line or layer too much fancy stuff on. Modern-day second-stringers like Pinmonkey and James Hetfield just get in the way; Kenny Chesney is wasted singing opposite the hammy, competitive, warbling Kid Rock.. The list goes on and on. On the plus side, Travis Tritt does okay with "Lonesome, On'ry And Mean," Alison Krauss gives a nice, quiet reading of "You Asked Me To," Andy Griggs holds his own as well, and Dwight Yoakam blows them all out of the water with a rollicking version of "Stop The World And Let Me Off." The most touching moments are a fragile Waylon rendition of "The Dream," and Jessi Colter, resurfacing for a ragged yet rightous reprise of "Storms Never Last..." On the whole, though... talk about missed opportunities.

Various Artists "LONESOME, ON'RY AND MEAN" (Dualtone, 2003)
A well-produced and nicely varied tribute album... A few of these songs are a bit cumbersome, but others are a delight, particularly Norah Jones's spin at "Wurlitzer Prize," Dave Alvin's appropriately resonant version of "Amanda," and Guy Clark's take on "Good Hearted Woman." Also nice is a sweet version on "Waymore's Blues," done by the remnants of Buddy Holly's old band, the Crickets, an amiable and super-competent outfit who remain, curiously, unsigned and exiled on the periphery of the roots and oldies scene. The most glaring "which of these things is not like the other?" track is Henry Rollins' cowpunky stab at the title track, which -- wisely enough -- is buried at the end of the album, so roots fans don't have to fast forward past it. A nice tribute, though, definitely worth checking out, even if no one could do this material as well as Waylon did. He was the coolest of the cool.

(Produced by Witt Stewart)

A hometown homage from a two-day tribute concert held in New Braunfels, Texas, with the elite of the contemporary and classic outlaw playing one great Waylon song after another. Artists include Jason Boland, Wade Brown, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Eleven Hundred Springs, Doug Moreland, The Red Dirt Rangers and many others, as well as old-timers and family folk such as Jessi Colter and Shooter Jennings, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver and Jerry Jeff Walker. Wow. That's one hell of a lineup.

Various Artists "WAYLON: THE MUSIC INSIDE, v.2" (Average Joe's, 2012)
(Produced by Witt Stewart & Friends)

Nashville's current crop of outlaw-identified singers -- dudes like Dierks Bentley, Colt Ford, Justin Moore and Montgomery Gentry -- pay homage to the great Waylon Jennings. Also on board are semi-old-timers like Pat Green and Jack Ingram, as well as Hank Jr. and, adding an extra layer of class, Waylon's longtime partner, outlaw queen Jessi Colter. The one head-scratcher on here is folk-popster Jewel, who looks "one of these things is not like the other" when lined up with all the bad-boys, but she does sing a lovely version of "Dreaming My Dreams." Also noteworthy is the rugged, raspy "bonus track" by Wyatt McCubbin that closes out the album -- he's one of the outside country dudes that the Average Joe's label gives a chance to record stuff that Nashville's major labels would overlook... His version of "A Long Time Ago" is a nice coda to a pretty solid set of Waylon covers. Definitely worth a spin.

Various Artists "WHITE MANSIONS" (RCA, 1978)


Waylon Jennings: 1960-79 | 1980-On | Best-Ofs | Tributes & Links

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