In the realm of country music, outlaw country music holds a very distinct and special place. Started in the late 1970’s, this style of country music featured some of the best country artists of all time and the best country music ever performed.
Outlaw country music was started in response to a style of country music called the Nashville sound, which was a bit softer than country had ever been. Such country music artists as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash were the originators of outlaw country and really made it what it was.
Jennings was the king of outlaw country music for me. He had a number of songs that exemplified the style, including “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean” and “Honky Tonk Heroes,” which was a tribute of sorts to the old honky tonk-style country singers like Hank Williams and George Jones.
Outlaw country music is a different breed because nothing before or after sounded quite like it, and it was extremely popular while it lasted, which oddly enough was not very long. It went against the establishment and had a more rugged sound.
One of the interesting things about outlaw country music is that there was a women’s movement during that period that featured such performers as Jessi Colter and Sammi Smith. Jessi Colter was actually Waylon Jennings’ wife, and with him she created the great compilation album called “Wanted! The Outlaws,” which was a huge success.
The outlaw country music movement also spawned a new movement in country music called Texas country music, which has already established legions of loyal followers. Hank Williams III is one of the more notable musicians from that movement.
One of my best friends asked me one time if I thought that outlaw country was better than other types of country music, because he liked more of the pop country style of modern artists. He said that it just seemed to be more listener-friendly style and that it appealed to a much larger listening audience than some of the outlaw country artists.
I told him that was precisely the reason that I prefer outlaw country music. To me, it had more of an authentic feel to it, and when I listened to it, I knew that I was listening to real country music and not a pop song.
I grew up with outlaw country music, idolizing guys like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. It definitely turned the tide of country music back to what it was supposed to be, in my mind, and featured some of the greatest country musicians of all time. Anyone that wants a good introduction to country music should definitely check it out.