In this week's Village Voice: my take on Nels Cline's Andrew Hill tribute CD, New Monastery.
In the new issue of Relix (the one with Tenacious -ugh- D on the cover), my take on the new Waylon Jennings box:
Waylon Jennings is great, but overrated: weird but true. There are a ridiculous number of ridiculously good country songs on this box, particularly on discs two and three - "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way," "I'm A Ramblin' Man," "(Don't Let The Sun Set On You) Tulsa," "Lonesome On'ry And Mean," "You Ask Me To," and too many more to list. Still, Jennings benefited quite a bit from his association with superior talents Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash (evidence: the numerous duets with each man that appear on discs two-four of this set). And gathering too much of any single performer's work in one place will point out the weird inconsistencies and stumbles as much as, if not more than, it'll highlight the triumphs, and there are some bad musical choices on display here. Duets with Nelson on covers of The Eagles' "Take It To The Limit" and Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" should simply never have been laid to tape. Similarly, his version of Elvis' "Suspicious Minds" (with wife Jessi Colter) is just wrongheaded; the raw Memphis soul of the original is wrecked by a terrible keyboard sound, ultimately transforming an anthem of obsession into just another country-radio love duet. In spite of his rebel posturing and his affiliation with the so-called "outlaw" movement of the 1970s, Jennings was too frequently willing to sweeten his music with such touches. A voice as rough as his shouldn't be surrounded with the female choruses that crop up so often here. Still, even if his voice was never half as evocative as Cash's, Nelson's or Merle Haggard's, the two middle discs of this set display his skills as a storyteller quite admirably. Oh, and for pop-culture ironists, yes, the theme from The Dukes Of Hazzard is included.