The second in a series of three tributes to the outlaw country legend, The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings, Volume II brings together a diverse, all-star cast to honor one of music’s great icons. Spearheaded by Waylon’s widow Jessi Colter, son Shooter Jennings and guitarist Reggie Young, The Music Inside is a hard country, rough-around-the-edges collection celebrating the freedom of Waylon’s music.
It’s like Montgomery Gentry’s Eddie Montgomery sings toward the end of the duo’s spirited cover of the classic “Good ‘Ol Boys (Dukes of Hazzard Theme Song).” Just havin’ fun, mama, he muses over a thick rhythm section, honky tonk piano and pedal steel. On this song, and really everywhere on the record, that fun-loving sentiment is easily heard.
Be it Dierks Bentley, Hank Jr. or Justin Moore, the performances here are ignited by a love for Waylon’s enduring legacy and free spirit. Dierks opens the record with a swampy, thumping version of “Lonesome, Onry and Mean,” calling out the anthem with a smoldering intensity as the band’s obvious joy is heard through their own instrumental voices filling out the rest of the track. Hank Jr. couldn’t be more in his element than on the chuggin’ “Waymore’s Blues,” letting loose with the lines, Well, I woke up this mornin’ it was drizzlin’ rain / around the curb came a passenger train, over the song’s infectious shake. And Texan Pat Green, whose raspy voice gives the beautiful “Rainy Day Woman” a rugged edge, deftly navigates multiple tempo shifts before an around-the-horn solo handoff from pedal steel to fiddle and later electric guitar.
The majority of The Music Inside is uptempo, bordering on anthem. However, artists like country/hip-hop-infused Colt Ford and folk-inspired Jewel offer their takes on Waylon classics that serve to slow things down just a bit. On “Only Daddy That Will Walk The Line,” Colt dials down the original tempo, rhythmically speaking the verses before a searing slide guitar solo. Jewel, the only other woman on the album besides Jessi Colter, adds a bittersweet touch to the wistful waltz “Dreaming My Dreams With You.” With a classic country ache and a quivering vibrato, Jewel beautifully renders the lines, Someday I’ll get over you / I’ll live to see it all through/ But I’ll always miss dreaming my dreams with you, over piano and reverb-washed guitars. Jessi lends her own voice to the haunting traditional heart breaker “Mama,” channeling her late husband through, ironically, a song she actually wrote herself.
The album’s overall sound is dynamic and spatially well-constructed, with a foundation of sturdy deep bass and full percussion. Credit is due to Producer Witt Stewart, as well as the mastering crew at Sterling Sound, for unifying such a diverse group of artists while simultaneously allowing each one to add their own unique voice. Fitting, really, considering The Music Inside is a celebration of one man’s unique voice and its lasting effect on a broad musical landscape.
Key tracks – “Lonesome, Onry and Mean,” “Waymore’s Blues,” “Bob Wills is Still the King,” “Rainy Day Woman”