Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable. Today’s Classic Album Review looks back at the debut effort of Waylon Jennings. Waylon became one of the great legends of country music, was a driving force behind the “Outlaw Movement” and was rewarded with induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Folk-Country was Waylon’s debut album. Released in March 1966 by RCA Victor, the album climbed into the top ten on Billboard’s country album chart and included Waylon’s first two single releases. Waylon recorded the tracks during several sessions throughout 1965 with Chet Atkins producing. Some of the well-known session musicians included Ray Stevens, Floyd Cramer, Pete Wade, Jerry Reed, and Bob Moore.
The debut track of Waylon’s debut album is a cover of the Little Jimmy Dickens single “Another Bridge to Burn”. Performed in a mid-tempo style, it’s a nice interpretation of one of the many great Harlan Howard tunes.
Next, Waylon covers the Johnnie and Jack hit, “Stop the World (And Let Me Off)”, which also became Waylon’s first hit, cracking the top twenty in the fall of 1965. A little quicker pace than the original, what sets this track apart is the guitar work. The guitar really sets the tone for the track.
“Cindy Of New Orleans” is a Waylon composition, with a rather unusual beat. Not a bad song, but the brilliance is that unusual beat, which is what makes this song a very interesting one to listen to.
I also like “Look into My Teardrops”. A nice, easy to follow melody.
“Down Came the World”. This is a track that one will not really find anything fancy, groundbreaking, or world-changing about. It’s just simply a nice little piece of music.
One will denote a Folk feel to much of Waylon’s early work, especially on this album (hence the title Folk-Country), and the track that has the strongest folk feel, in my opinion is “I Don’t Mind”, side one’s final track. Another from the pen of Harlan Howard (along with Richard Johnson), it’s not a bad track, but not quite to the level of the other five on this side.
Halfway through, we flip the disc to side two for another strong dose of Folk-Country on the track “Just for You”. Waylon co-authored this track with Don Bowman. I like the driving beat of this track; and the very interesting melody. Add some good lyrical work, and this song is a winner.
“Now Everybody Knows” is more along the traditional country route. A little slower, tempo-wise, another quality track.
“That’s the Chance I’ll Have to Take” was Waylon’s debut single. Though it missed the country top forty, it did introduce much of the country music audience to this future legend. I like this track. This is one that deserved at least a top forty placing, if not higher. I especially like Charlie McCoy’s harmonica work, which really makes this track stand out. A great “Almost Hit”.
None of the tracks on this album are ones that are going to make you sit up, say, “Oh Wow”, and marvel at the classic workmanship; but they are tracks that combine for an album that when finished, you look back on and say, “That’s a very good piece of work”. Good quality, each track, including “What Makes A Man Wander”. Nothing fancy or groundbreaking, just good music.
“I’m A Man of Constant Sorrow” is not the same song made famous by the Stanley Brothers and later used in the film “O Brother Where Art Thou”. Rather, this is a Waylon composition that is a decent track, nothing fancy, but I like it.
The final track of this collection is “What’s Left of Me”. One other thing that makes this album so interesting to listen to, are the different styles of beats used, including here. The song, itself, is a good track that would stand out, even without the styling used. However, the somewhat unique beat makes a good track even better and is one of the reasons this album is so interesting and enjoyable to listen to.
This album has been issued on CD, both solo and in a package with Sings Ol’ Harlan. In both cases, the copies I found for sale on Amazon and eBay were often above $20. Vinyl copies were also commanding decent prices (if you’re the seller), often in the $15 to $20 range. It is available as an MP3. Goldmine shows this to be among the more valuable of Waylon’s albums, as they value near-mint copies at $50 for stereo and $30 for mono.
Overall, this album was a great introduction to a future country music legend. There are no weak tracks, here. For a piece of work that’s fifty-four years old, this album holds up well, in my opinion. Your thoughts? Comments and memories and opinions are always welcome.
Saving vinyl one record at a time.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, model railroader, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.