Lonesome, On'ry and Mean is the quintessential Waylon Jennings outlaw record. Waylon produced the set -- the first unfettered by the bonds of RCA -- with his own band, and the results are nothing less than electrifying. Steve Young, the perennial country and folk music outsider, may have penned the title cut, but Waylon's delivery as an anthem bears in it all of his years of frustration at not being able to make the music he wanted to. Fury is a better word for what is heard in the grain of the song's lyrics. Young's own version is devastating, but this one is transcendent. (And why is it that Travis Tritt was picked to sing this at Waylon's memorial instead of Young, who was also present? Talk about misguided justice.) But the boundaries between rock & roll and country come down once again on this album in Kris Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby McGee," as folk and post-psychedelia meet Texas in Mickey Newbury's "San Francisco Mabel Joy" and the broken, road-weary pop honky tonk balladry of Danny O'Keefe's "Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues." Add to this Johnny Cash's "Gone to Denver" and Willie Nelson's "Pretend I Never Happened," and you have an outsider's dream. That the rest of the recording is just as consistent, just as seamless in its execution, production, and delivery, makes Lonesome, On'ry and Mean the first seriously pitched battle in the 1970s country music wars. And this one went to Jennings and his fans, hands down.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek