Sifting through a passel of more and/or less current country reissues—redundant or worse are Warner Bros./Rhino’s one-disc Randy Travis, HighTone’s Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore best-ofs, RCA’s Ultimate Clint Black and John Anderson and Jerry Reed Country Legends, and the mawkish Love Songs Epic/Legacy laid on George & Tammy—I found two for the A shelves. Ultimate Waylon Jennings is for we who think BMG’s title-by-title reissue program makes less sense than the Black Sabbath box (although 1978’s I’ve Always Been Crazy sounds sane enough). Beyond “outlaw,” nobody ever specifies what Jennings does and doesn’t do with his strained, resonant, masculine baritone—his “Me and Bobby McGee” is uglier than Kristofferson’s. But on sure shots you can forgive him his pain. Highlights include the belated “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand” and the wounded “The Taker,” a Kristofferson song about a lady some other slimeball done wrong. Dwight Yoakam, of course, is that slimeball. Although there was no such thing as purist honky-tonk before he came along, now there is, and in controlled doses it’s as sharp as the crease in his crotch. The 20 selections never tail off, and neither does Yoakam’s voice as it transports Buck Owens from the flats of Bakersfield to the Blue Ridge mountains of your mind.
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