It would take a truly independent honky tonk hero to give this album the wings it deserves. Put the project in the hands of progeny - no matter Hank, Jr. or Hank III - and they risk coming off as too precious and self-conscious. (Start with Bocephus' 1993 effort "A Tribute to My Father" for evidence.) Waylon Jennings, one of the few outlaws on the same heightened plateau as Hank Senior, was neither.
This is an enthralling collection of covers that succeeds specifically because the two rebels were equally autonomous spirits. Jennings interprets classics such as "Jambalaya (On The Bayou)," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Cold Cold Heart" with his own honest swagger, and that rare purity allows the heart of Williams' songwriting to shine as brightly as it should.
"No matter how big his audience was or how many chart-toppers he had, Waylon always included at least one Hank song at each concert," Hazel Smith writes in the liner notes. It shows. By the time Jennings got around to recording this music in 1985, he clearly fit as comfortably in these tunes as he did in those ever-present dark shades. Novices interested in an education in true country music, take note: This is an ideal launching pad into the genre.