Waylon Jennings

Waylon Jennings

Closing in on the Fire

Ark 21

Some may think it’s a downright shame a living legend like Waylon Jennings is forced to record for small independent labels while cookie-cutter cowboys churn out bland country music for the majors, but Ol’ Hoss’s current predicament does have its advantages. For one, Waylon has finally reached the point where he can do just what he pleases with his music without outside interference, and the independent route gives him the freedom in which he truly shines. This is the main push behind Waylon’s latest effort, Closing in on the Fire , his first release on the tiny Ark 21 label.

After a rather fallow period in the ’80s, Waylon has released a slew of quality albums lately, and keeps on trucking with his latest effort, both pleasing and surprising old fans. The choice track of the album has to be the closer, a barrelhouse run-through of the legendary Rolling Stones song “No Expectations.” Jennings brings a sense of urgency and defeat which nearly outdoes both the Stones’ original and the cover by Johnny Cash of a few years back.

A close second is the Sting penned rave-up “She’s Too Good For Me.” Joined by Sheryl Crow for one humorous verse, the tune rocks harder than just about anything in Waylon’s repertoire. Speaking of guest stars, Waylon teams up with Travis Tritt, one of the few new country superstars he can stand, apparently, for the nifty “I Know About Me, Don’t Know About You.”

The rollicking title track, written by swamp rock god Tony Joe White, and the Dixieland influenced boogie of “Easy Money” show the edgy energy Waylon brought to his unique brand of country music. The light-hearted “Untitled Waltz” showcases his gently self-effacing sense of humor, as does “Back Home (Where I Come From)” which highlights Waylon’s victories over the CMA, AMA, and the DEA.

While not quite up to the snuff of some of his classic records like Honky Tonk Heroes or Dreaming My Dreams , Closing in on the Fire is a top-notch album by one of country music’s truest originals and sure-fired living legends. Waylon rarely disappoints, and despite his current medical problems, Closing in on the Fire proves the ragged-but-right outlaw still has plenty of fire left in him, and hopefully will for years to come.

Ark 21, 14724 Ventura Blvd., Penthouse Suite, Sherman Oakes, CA 91403; http://www.ark21.com

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