Album Reviews

The Highwaymen: Live: American Outlaws (Sony Legacy)

highwaymen

The Highwaymen
Live: American Outlaws
Sony Legacy

The Highwaymen was a country supergroup to beat all supergroups. Putting together legends Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson seemed like such a great idea, one wonders what took it so long. Their debut album, Highwayman, appeared in 1985; its title track, a Jimmy Webb number, soon became an international hit; it would top the country charts, and the album itself would be certified Platinum. They would release a follow-up album in 1990, and though it wasn’t the critical or commercial success of its predecessor, it was still a fine album featuring four masters doing what they do best.

The Highwaymen Live: American Outlaws finds the quartet live in concert, on tour for their second album. The thrill of four living legends on stage is a great one…but unfortunately, it doesn’t come together quite in the way that you’d hope. This set consists of thirty-five songs—only a handful from the actual Highwayman records—and is more of a showcase for each artist’s greatest hits. Each artist gets a fair share of stage time for their hits, and at times, these performances feel perfunctory, at best. Classic numbers like “Are You Sure Hank Done It That Way?” and “City Of New Orleans” are performed at a breakneck speed, and one feels like they’re just going through the motions.  Oddly enough, the performances really gel on the actual Highwayman records; “Silver Stallion,” the band’s then-current single, is delightful, as is the conceptual Webb song. “The Last Cowboy Song” is a passionate, emotional number that rallies the potency that could have been had in the rest of the show. Overall, this concert is good, but it’s not great; it’s certainly not worth the fifty dollar retail price.

Even more puzzling are the bonus tracks, taken from various Farm Aid performances; though they’re labeled as “The Highwaymen,” Johnny Cash is not in attendance, which makes their inclusion here feel more like extra padding to boost up the price. (The DVD is the concert in its entirety, a superfluous move that, again, feels like a way to boost up that price.) Fifty bucks might have been a great deal for a concert ticket to see these guys live together, but for this souvenir…it’s asking too much and delivering too little.

A record’s retail price shouldn’t a point of discussion in a review, but in this case, one cannot help but recognize that American Outlaws is a bit overpriced for its disappointingly mediocre content. It’s a shame, too; the Highwaymen concept was a good one, but this just feels exploitative.

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