Waylon Jennings' Are You Ready for the Country (1976) is mostly an album of thoughtful and sentimental outlaw reflections, but it includes some songs that are on the rowdy side, too. Waylon looks back through his past in Old Friend, a song he wrote about Buddy Holly. Then he celebrates his wife in So Good Woman, and contemplates faith in the spiritual Precious Memories. Accepting the inevitable, he sings the lament of an aging outlaw coming to terms with the reality of a failed May/December romance in A Couple More Years.
I've walked a couple more roads than you baby, that's all
I'm tired of running and you're only learning to crawl
And you're going somewhere, but I've been to somewhere
And found it was nowhere at all
And I've picked up a couple of more years on you baby, that's all.
Jennings does a great version of Jimmy Webb's MacArthur Park (Revisited). Waylon had said he always thought of the sentimental classic as a country song.
I recall the yellow cotton dress
Foaming like a wave
On the ground around your knees
The birds, like tender babies in your hands
And old men playing checkers by the trees.
Are You Ready For The Country isn't all sentimental reflections and comfortable country songs, either. This guy can rock, too. Waylon was a member of Buddy Holly's touring band, and was giving 'em hell way back when rock n' roll was still in it's infancy. The title song was written by Neil Young, and this version sounds even better than Neil's. That's saying a lot coming from me, as Harvest is one of my all-time favorite albums. Waylon nails The Marshall Tucker Band's Can't You See, too, with a spirited vocal performance and highly charged backup from his band. It was during this mid-to-late 1970s period that Waylon Jennings recorded his best work (Dreaming My Dreams, Honky Tonk Heroes, Waylon Live, and others), and I would consider this album an essential part of that era.