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Honky Tonk Heroes

4.9 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Vinyl, November 11, 2013
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Editorial Reviews

Honky Tonk Heroes is a country music album by Waylon Jennings, released in 1973 on RCA Victor. With the exception of "We Had It All", all of the songs on the album were written or co-written by Billy Joe Shaver. The album is considered an important piece in the development of the outlaw subgenre in country music as it helped revive the honky tonk music of Nashville by injecting a rock and roll attitude. Jennings had invited the then unknown Shaver to Nashville to write the songs for Jennings' next album after hearing him sing "Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me" just before the 1972 Dripping Springs Reunion. When Shaver arrived in Nashville he spent six months chasing up Jennings before again convincing him to make an album of his songs. Jennings had renegotiated his contract with RCA Records, who gave him creative control over his work to avoid losing him to Atlantic Records. So when his usual producer, Chet Atkins, was reluctant to release a record consisting of songs written by an unknown songwriter, Jennings replaced him with Tompall Glaser; and the two co-produced the album at Glaser's Hillbilly Central Studio in Nashville. Jennings replaced the typical Nashville session musicians with his own band, The Waylors. The executives of RCA Records were reluctant to release the album, and delayed it until July 1973. It had a mixed reception by the critics on release, though has gained in status and is now regarded as an important album in outlaw county, and is listed in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. It reached number 14 in Billboard's Top Country albums chart. The singles "You Ask Me To" and "We Had It All" did well, reaching number 8 and 28, respectively

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Honky Tonk Heroes Producer Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings 3:35
  2. Old Five And Dimmers (Like Me) Producer Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings 3:05
  3. Willie The Wandering Gypsy And Me Producer Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings 3:00
  4. Low Down Freedom Producer Ronnie Light 2:20
  5. Omaha Producer Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings 2:36

Disc: 2

  1. You Asked Me To Producer Waylon Jennings 2:30
  2. Ride Me Down Easy Producer Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings 2:37
  3. Ain't No God In Mexico Producer Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings 2:00
  4. Black Rose Producer Ronnie Light 2:28
  5. We Had It All Arranged By Glenn Spreen Producer Ken Mansfield, Waylon Jennings 2:45


Product Details

  • Vinyl (November 11, 2013)
  • Original Release Date: November 11, 2013
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Fat Possum
  • ASIN: B00FG0LTCW
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,006 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jerome Clark on August 25, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Country music's long slide into pop-pap drool was arrested for one glorious moment when this wonderful album came out more than two and a half decades ago. It felt like fresh air, and if anything, the air it exudes now -- when nearly all of Nashville music seems hellbent on a grotesque race to the bottom -- is even more invigorating. There was a time when country music and folk music were nearly synonymous, and Honky Tonk Heroes, with its spare arrangements, melodies cut close to the bone, and wide-open landscapes, tells you what might have happened if the two genres had kept company and learned from each other. This is American music as good as it gets. "Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me" and "Ride Me Down Easy" are the deeply moving anthems I remember them to be, back in the days when I was playing the vinyl version down to the grooves. And now, many years later, I finally get the wornout-shoe wisdom of "Old Five and Dimers (Like Me)." If they'd never done another record or sung or written another song, Honky Tonk Heroes would have assured Waylon Jennings and Billy Joe Shaver their places in hillbilly heaven.
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Format: Audio CD
After a tough contract renegotiation, Jennings was truly free of the Nashville machine. Free to produce his own records, free to say what he wanted, and free to record what and where he pleased. The full fruition of these freedoms can be found on this landmark 1973 release.
It's surprising to find that this most un-Nashville album was recorded at the very heart of all that Jennings was rebelling against musically: RCA's "Nashville Sound" studio. That it sounds absolutely nothing like the prevailing Nashville pop is a tribute to Jennings, his co-producer (Tompall Glaser), his band (The Waylors), his songwriter for this album (Billy Joe Shaver), and the sympathetic players Jennings brought in for the sessions. A further surprise is the lengthy list of musicians, given the relative spareness of the productions.
Whether or not the legend of a drunk Jennings promising Shaver he'd record his songs is true, it's clear that no other songwriter of the day so vividly captured the singer's ethos. The songs combine outlaw rebellion, mythical storytelling, and a sense of all-out relief at being able to finally say what's on one's mind. Its sentiments, couched in minimal arrangements, remain as salty and vibrant as the day they were recorded.
Buddha's reissue adds two bonus tracks to the original ten: Shaver's "Slow Rollin' Low" and the single version of Shaver & Jennings' "You Ask Me To," both of which match the quality of the original LP lineup. The original liner notes (by Roger Schutt) are augmented by a 1999 essay from Rich Kienzle that adds an excellent historical perspective.
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Format: Audio CD
Period. This is the best country album I have ever heard. It was good in 1973 when it came out and it is good in 2000. Good music doesn't go bad because of time, and this is the best country album ever recorded. It is complete. These songs are so much more developed, so much more emotional, so much more REAL than the tripe you hear today. Country singers today can't fathom making a country record with this much guts.
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By A Customer on July 20, 1999
Format: Audio CD
As a youngster of thirteen, I purchased "Honky Tonk Heroes" from the bargain bin at our local Woolworth store for ninety-seven cents. You see, country music wasn't very big in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1973. From the first guitar notes of the title song, I realized that this was unlike any country music I had ever heard. Different from the worn out syrup they played on our local 1500-watt "Country" station or my Mom's Eddie Arnold and Tennessee Ernie albums. I ran the needle through the album, a fact to which my father and siblings will attest, and to this day continue to be amazed when I hear one of the songs covered by one of today's "stars" or by some four-piece band in some out of the way watering hole.The fact that it has now been re-releaased more than twenty-five years later is a true measure of the albums staying power and timelessness. A true classic, and for a young Michigan boy with a limited budget, a true diamond in the rough. Buy this CD, but don't be surprised if you catch your own thirteen year old son ( or daughter ) borrowing it.
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Format: Audio CD
Willie Nelson became "Willie Nelson" with his 1976 classic album "Red-Headed Stranger." Wayon Jennings became "Waylon Jennings" with this 1973 release. All but one of the songs was written by Billy Joe Shaver, and that consistency of attitude makes this short album almost as good as Willie's. Thirty years ago a group of musicians got together in Nashville and made this record, which at the time, was as un-Nashville as "country music" could possibly get. This collection is folk-country-confessional art song, with a touch of rock and blues. At least five of the songs are among the best performances Waylon would ever manage. If you only want to own one CD to represent Waylon's 40-year-career, this would be a great choice. Such a decision would be a little unjust to Waylon, who put out at least 30 unforgettable renditions in varying styles. "Honky-Tonk Heroes' however, fully merits its cult status and classy reputation among knowledgeable fans.
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