One of my all-time favorite Waylon Jennings songs has always been "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?" Waylon (and Willie) saw early on that Nashville had an evil habit of turning on its stars, taking the work of the greats and dumbing it down to the mediocre.
A few weeks ago, I saw Kevin "Shinyribs" Russell power his way through the song with all the surliness and independent screw-you attitude that the lyric calls for. "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?" will always be bigger in Austin than it ever was in Nashville.
Waylon was always a great fan of Hank Williams, and often included covers of Williams tunes like "Darling Let's Turn Back the Years" in his set lists. Waylon even released an album of Hank covers, Ol' Waylon Sings Ol' Hank, on his own label in 1992, but not many copies of that one were even pressed, much less sold, so it remains a rarity. The album was reissued by YMC Records of Dallas in 2006 as Waylon Sings Hank Williams, and has been reissued again this year under the same title. (Copies are available at Sig's Lagoon and Cactus Music.) I was never aware of this album, recorded in 1985, until local record distributor Armando Sanchez handed me a copy a few weeks back.
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Since then, I've worn the thing out. From his earliest countrypolitan days under Chet Atkins' thumb at RCA to his final stabs at recording after his health failed, I was always a huge Waylon fan. Couple that with the fact that I was raised almost from the crib on Hank - my parents tell me my first words were "round and round" as I pointed at a Hank Williams 45 rpm playing on their Victrola - and you can see where I might get pretty excited about Waylon Sings Hank Williams. What I really love about it is that Waylon didn't just record the obvious songs that literally everyone knows. He dug deep for chestnuts like "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me," "I Won't Be Home No More," and the cautionary "Be Careful of Stones That You Throw." His treatment of the classic "Half As Much" is equal parts Waylon and Hank, the perfect mixture for a country song. And when Ol' Waymore leans into "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" with steel guru Ralph Mooney laying on the sad licks, you know he knows what he's singing about. If you're way into Hank and Waylon, you're going to need this one in your collection. It's the sure-nuff real deal.