Here comes one of the great ones. Better yet, here he comes in something like his former splendor. Having vowed not long ago to quit making records, ol' Waylon has changed his mind. Instead he has become 1994's second country-music senior (Johnny Cash is the other) to emerge from career purgatory.
Producer Don Was, pop music's producer-for-all-seasons (from Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time to the Rolling Stones' Voodoo Lounge), lives up to his billing here. His strategy, obvious in hindsight but shrewd nonetheless, was to re-create Jennings's classic sound, the patented sinister lope Waylon evolved in the early '70s. If ever a beat sneered, it was Waylon's.
Jennings' voice, moreover—for years a husk of its old self—has somehow regained its brooding magnificence. "Up in Arkansas" reminds you that he was once country's king of atmosphere, conjuror of massing thunderclouds and looming trouble. The slow waltz "No Good For Me" is a gem of clenched-voice, stoic passion. "Old Timer (The Song)" is probably the album's high point, a long saga whose protagonist, a gruff Wyoming mountain man, falls in love in spite of himself—the quintessential Jennings hero. Genuinely funny, "Nobody Knows" is the ultimate "Elvis Lives!" joke.
Waylon's not playing catch-up ball anymore. Fed up with scrambling to keep up with the latest country-music trend, he just waves his paw in disgust, resigned at last to being what he is: an ornery ol' throwback. (RCA)