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Waylon Jennings GOIN’ DOWN ROCKIN’: THE LAST RECORDINGS Saguara Road Records HHHHI Waylon, upfront and honest—a fitting epitaph to a true music legendary icon From his early days as a member of

Buddy Holly’s Crickets, through his well- publicised battles with producers over control of his albums, to his towering success in the 1970s and 1980s, Waylon Jennings always followed his own path. Most would agree that he reached the peak of his artistry in the mid-1970s with the so-called Outlaw Movement. This album, produced by his longtime steel guitarist Robby Turner, features a dozen songs that Waylon recorded in Turner’s studio in 1999, three years before he died at just 64. At the time, Ol’ Waylon walked with a cane, had a bad back and heart trouble, and his feet and hands sometimes hurt from a diabetic illness. But the fire that made him a country outlaw was still there for all to hear. Waylon performed the songs to just his own guitar accompaniment. Turner returned to the original tapes earlier this year and with the blessing of Jessi Colter (Waylon’s widow), he pulled in musicians like Reggie Young and Richie Allbright, who had worked extensively with the singer over the years to overdub full band arrangements. As a producer, Turner shows remarkable skill in pacing and it doesn’t hurt that he is a marvellous steel guitarist and Dobroist. His playing swings, slides, and soars over the dozen tracks and he leaves a few edges a little ragged, which only adds to the soulfulness of the album. The accompaniment is raw and basic;

electric and acoustic guitars, steel guitar, harmonica. As ever, Waylon crossed all musical styles, and the results are gratifying. But it’s his own stark voice that is the star here. He’d seen it all, done it all, and gotten a little mellow, but there was still plenty of bite in the old outlaw. Previously he’d only contributed a few of his own songs to an album, this time he was responsible for all but one, firmly stamping his own mark on it all. I’ve always believed that Ol’’ Waylon was a little underrated as a writer. This was a grizzled old country music outlaw sitting down, taking stock of things. What he decided, these songs tell you, is that he accepts

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what he’d done and still enjoyed doing it. The record is beautifully sequenced, opening with Tony Joe White’s stormy title song and settling into a central core of tender autobiographical songs. Waylon could have written: ‘I can’t change my way of doin’, it’s gonna lay like it falls,’ himself that he sang so defiantly on Going Down Rockin’. Both Never Say Die and If My Harley Was Runnin’ are heavier works, the rock influences coming more to the fore. Still his music is a powerfully individual reflection of classic country influences and a keen appreciation for the best in music of virtually every style, refracted through an unexcelled devotion to creative risk-taking. This was a new Waylon. At first it may sound a bit like his others. But the more one hears the album (it’s nigh impossible to play it just once), the deeper these new tunes take you. Friends In California is full of honest reflection; I Do Believe finds him baring his soul without any apologies and the Cajun-flavoured album closer Wrong Road To Nashville, takes us back—in sound and style—to his very first record, the 1958 Buddy Holly-produced Jole Blon. Though, lyrically, it’s many miles from that debut disc as he expresses his frustration with Nashville and the music business he never wanted a part of. His eclectic, raw-edged approach to music, blending rough, soulful vocals, individualistic lyrics and elements of country, rock and rockabilly with a soulful southern feel made him probably the last of the honky-tonk heroes. If this album is Waylon’s epitaph, then I can’t think of none better. Alan Cackett

Catherine Irwin LITTLE HEATER Thrill Jockey HH Discordant old-time death and despair Singer-songwriter

for also- rans Freakwater, Catherine Irwin’s second album—her first for ten years—is, shall we say, a difficult listen. She has a discordant voice that a mother might struggle to love, one that seems to have the same relationship to a melody that a tightrope walker has to their wire—they’re on it but it’s a real effort to stay there. Various left- field luminaries pop up from time to time, notably Bonnie Prince Billy, though their presence is minimal.

Occasionally it works, as on Hoopskirt,

but that’s at least in part because its tune is a second cousin to Long Black Veil; the sounds here suited to death and despair—a voice on the edge of breaking, struggling to hold it all together, is perfect for a story of a person trying to do the same. Elsewhere though Irwin doesn’t bring much new or interesting to the backwoods death and despair field, and given that it’s a pretty crowded field LITTLE HEATER is destined to be crowded out by more intense and more interesting offerings. Jeremy Searle

Corb Lund CABIN FEVER New West Records HHHI Lund rings country music’s numerous changes on his sixth solo studio outing Canadian Lund’s latest arrives in single

and double disc configurations. It features twelve songs performed by Corb (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) and his long-time, three-piece band The Hurtin’ Albertans— guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Grant Siemens, upright bassist Kurt Ciesla, and drummer Brady Valgardson. On the deluxe configuration, the Fever Side (with electricity) is accompanied by the Cabin Side (without electricity)—a different setting, each disc containing exactly the same songs. Hayes Carll shares the vocal duties on

the melodically robust, lyrically light- hearted road epic Bible On The Dash co-written with Lund and Oklahoman singer-songwriter Jason Boland, whilst album co-producer John Evans—Steve Christensen and the Hurtin’ Albertans also share the (production) credit—adds handclaps, whoops, hollers and the occasional background vocal. Evans (using the pseudonym Clive) and Lund (pseudonym Elton) perform as The Ego Brothers. Furthermore Evans’ songs have been covered by Carll—seemingly like a cosy musical circle of friends. Lund, a JUNO award winner and seven-

time CCMA Roots Artist of the Year, hid himself in a remote cabin an hour outside Edmonton while penning the CABIN FEVER songs. Nine of them bear his name, whilst (You Ain’t A Cowboy) If You Ain’t Been Bucked Off—an allegorical tale of heartbreak—and

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