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Picks and Pans Review: Highwayman

updated 06/03/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/03/1985 01:00AM

Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson

If Mount Rushmore could sing, this is the way it would sound. Even more as a group than they are individually, these four men are corny, sentimental, romantic, noble, grand, full of folk wisdom and spectacularly entertaining. They sing 10 songs on this album, a project pulled together by producer Chips Moman. The material could hardly be better or more elegantly presented. The title song, by Jimmy Webb, gives a chorus to each singer (about a highwayman, a sailor, a dam builder and an astronaut). The William Bruce-Ron Peterson tune The Last Cowboy Song is perfect for the quartet, too, since this LP is the musical equivalent of a Western movie starring John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck and Henry Fonda. Paul Kennerley's Welfare Line, Guy Clark's Desperados Waiting for a Train, Bob Seger's Against the Wind and Cash's Big River seem tailor-made as well. And the Steve Goodman-John Prine song The Twentieth Century Is Almost Over, previously recorded by Cash, belongs in a time capsule: "Did anybody see them linoleum floors/Petroleum jelly and two world wars?/They went around in revolving doors.../You know the Judgment Day is gettin' nearer/There it is in the rear view mirror/If you'd duck down I could see a little clearer." While Cash and Nelson get a little more solo time than the other two, there's hardly enough difference to matter. These are artists who can rise to an occasion, and the occasion in this case is as good a country music album as has ever been made. (Columbia)

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