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Posted at 1:20 PM ET, 02/ 4/2011

Album review: "The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings"

By Chris Richards

Waylon Jennings gets the tribute treatment from some of country's biggest names. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Jamey Johnson has one of those sing-the-phone-book voices — a supernatural baritone that could make “Abrams, Ackerman, Ackert . . .” sound like great country music. When he throws his lungs into a cover, he threatens to colonize the song as his own. But somehow, Waylon Jennings tunes consistently resist that fate. Even on Johnson’s sublime renditions of “The Door Is Always Open” and “Mental Revenge,” you can hear the student genuflecting before the master.

With a cover of “This Time,” Johnson’s beautiful bellow kicks off “The Music Inside,” a spirited new tribute disc to Jennings that was directly overseen by the country legend’s widow, Jessi Colter, and their only son, Shooter Jennings. It’s the first in a three-volume series of tribute compilations due this year, but it’s hard to imagine a better cast than this. Colter sings a sparkling duet of “Good Hearted Woman” with Sunny Sweeney, Shooter turns “Belle of the Ball” into a grizzled ballad, and ascendant voices (James Otto, Randy Houser) get rowdy while iconic voices (Kris Kristofferson) remain plaintive.

The only misstep comes with Alabama’s read on “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” It’s one of the greatest songs ever written about the anxiety of influence, an indelible meditation on hero-worship and rebellion. But the reunited Southern rockers keep it reverent with the straightest of covers. Would Waylon have done it this way?

By Chris Richards  | February 4, 2011; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  Album reviews  | Tags:  Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Shooter Jennings, Waylon Jennings  
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