Waylon Jennings / Kris Kristofferson / Willie Nelson / Billy Joe Shaver

Honky Tonk Heroes

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Scanning the cover and track listing of Pedernales/FreeFalls' Honky Tonk Heroes it's hard to tell what this collection credited to Billy Joe Shaver, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson actually is. Is it a various-artist compilation, a live effort or re-recordings? Well, it's the closest to re-recordings, but that term implies a shoddy rip-off, which is certainly what this album is not. Released in 1999 but consisting primarily of recordings that were cut in Willie Nelson's studio, Pedernales, in 1989 when Shaver was recording with his son, guitarist Eddie. As the recording progressed, Shaver started hauling out such classic songs as "Ain't No God in Mexico," "You Asked Me To," "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal," and "Easy Come Easy Go (aka Ride Me Down Easy)," with first Willie sitting in, singing, and playing, then Waylon and Kristofferson as well. Each vocalist traded verses and Nelson and Eddie Shaver traded guitar solos. The recordings were easy and relaxed, but filled with nuance and passion. These are songs the musicians have played countless times, but it's clear that they still love the tunes and anyone that's come to love Shaver's songs, whether it's through his recordings or Willie, Waylon, or Kristofferson's, will likely find this to be quite charming. Not really a major album, but an enjoyable one for old five and dimers nonetheless.

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