Waylon Jennings recorded his songs with a swagger unmatched by any artist during a career that spanned nearly half a century. Unfortunately, that trademark macho conviction seems to be lacking in several performances on the new tribute to country's most famous outlaw, whose career began as Buddy Holly's bassist (Jennings famously gave up his seat to the Big Bopper on the ill-fated flight that crashed in 1959) and ended quietly with his death in 2002.
It's an ambitious project, with two more volumes in this trilogy scheduled for release later this year. And there are several compelling performances among the 11-song collection.
Randy Houser leaves his stamp with a bluesy take on I'm a Ramblin' Man; Kris Kristofferson and Patty Griffin team for a convincing version of Rose in Paradise and unknown Chanel Campbell wistfully coos her take of The Wurlitzer Prize (I Don't Want to Get Over You).
Yet John Hiatt offers nothing fresh with Satisfy You, Jamey Johnson sounds tentative on This Time, Trace Adkins's vocals are fine, but it's a musically listless You Asked Me To and Alabama's version of Are You Sure Hank Done it this Way, which was arguably Waylon at his outlaw best, is forced and contrived.
Unlike 2003's "Lonesome, On'ry and Mean" tribute to Waylon, which was riveting from start to finish, this first installment is uneven a bit disappointing. With two more volumes ahead, hopefully it won't be one of those three-disc albums that in hindsight should have been culled to a single 18-song collection.