Not gonna lie: “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean” has never been one of my favorite Waylon hits. Call me what you will, but I’ve always thought the flat production employed in that studio recording just doesn’t quite give the song the momentum it needs to chug along successfully for the full three and-a-half minutes, which ultimately dulls the piece’s fairly interesting story .
That said, I dig it appreciably more in live settings that allow the electric guitars to blast out the song’s sweet country-rock licks at full power. And that’s the approach that seems to be at play in this new take on the Outlaw anthem, an exciting preview of Jennings’ upcoming collaboration with son Shooter and Shooter’s southern rock outfit, the .357’s. The album is titled Waylon Forever, and that moniker seems appropriate; if this steel-heavy track is any indication, the guests have done a pretty good job of updating the older material for future generations without detonating out the tradition with unnecessary electric trickery.
But for all the points the younger Jennings’ crew scores with their arrangement, the ultimate high of this rendition is the vocal, which finds the late older Jennings (who would have been around sixty-eight at the the time of this recording in 1995) ripping into the iconic number with a fiery conviction that only makes it all sound that much more bad-ass. If for some reason you’ve never heard “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean” before, consider this a rare and valuable opportunity to experience a country-rock song that is actually equal parts country and rock. If you’re a veteran, consider this a rare and valuable opportunity to hear a signature spell outcast by its own enigmatic wizard.
Listen: “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean”