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Waylon Jennings' Haunting Last Recordings

Waylon Jennings' last recordings, made with his son Shooter, have just been released.
Rusty Russell
Getty Images
Waylon Jennings' last recordings, made with his son Shooter, have just been released.

A stalwart of the outlaw country movement in the 1970s, Waylon Jennings bucked the conventions of Nashville with a tough sound and attitude. He died in 2002, but his son Shooter, now an outlaw country star in his own right, has just released a collection of songs he made with his dad in the mid-'90s — the last recordings Waylon Jennings ever made.

I've always thought of Jennings as something of a ghost. The man famously escaped death in 1959, when he gave up his seat on the plane that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. That night haunted him for the rest of his life, and indeed his voice possessed a haunted quality. Inside Waylon Forever is a photo-booth snapshot of Waylon Jennings with Buddy Holly, a reminder that his career, his contribution to outlaw country music and even his son Shooter all happened on borrowed time.

In 1995, Waylon and Shooter Jennings began recording these tracks, revisiting some of the elder Jennings' hits along with a handful of covers. Shooter was 16 at the time, and no doubt inspired by his legendary dad, to whom he bears an uncanny resemblance, and whose leather-bound guitar he still plays. But Waylon also found inspiration in the music that was influencing his son as he embarked on his own career. So not only is this Waylon's last CD, but also, in a way, it's Shooter's first. More than a decade after leaving the project unfinished, Shooter brought the tracks to his band, The .357s, whose tough-edged playing reinvigorates Waylon classics.

The album honors the outlaw legacy of Waylon Jennings. Shooter and his band complete the songs with the right combination of Southern rock with a Black Sabbath chaser. Waylon, who loved all kinds of music and even palled around with Metallica, would no doubt approve. But with howling steel guitar and plenty of spooky reverb on the vocals, Waylon Forever does not let you forget that Waylon really is a ghost now — a music legend who never stops reminding us that life is random.

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Meredith Ochs