Monday, January 24, 2011

Waylon Jennings: Are You Sure Jimmy Done It This Way?

I started this post to write about Jimmy Buffett playing his first concert in Australia in 24 years. Fortunately for me, I stumbled upon a video that led me down a different path.

In 2004, Jimmy Buffett released an album called License To Chill that featured many of the biggest country acts of the day, including Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, and Kenny Chesney.  It's his only album to reach #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and we haven't been able to escape 'It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere' ever since.  Its my opinion, and there is much evidence to back this up, that it was right at the same time that modern country artists started to make their money rehashing the Jimmy Buffett formula of singing songs about islands, surf, and sand to people who don't live near any of those things.  This sound further commercialized country music, giving it a slick, produced veneer and removed much of the traditional elements of heartbreak and honky-tonk that make it so honest and relatable.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm actually a fan of Jimmy Buffett and I think he does what he does well, but I don't want margaritas anywhere near my whiskey. 

With this trend in modern country music to sway towards Jimmy Buffett's islands in the past decade, I was very surprised to find evidence that one of country music's superstars tackled a Jimmy Buffett tune way back in 1997, before it was financially advantageous to do so.  Highwayman Waylon Jennings included his take on Buffett's 'He Went To Paris' on his All American Country album.  Waylon's version does this song the real country music way, featuring steel guitar without a hint of steel drums. 

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