Old Dogs Volumes One & Two
Morello Records/Cherry Red
Growing older is hard enough, but doing so in the entertainment world is even harder, as youth and beauty are often favored over talent and ability. Well, in the 1990s, four country musicians and a well-loved songwriter decided they’d address this issue head on. Bobby Bare, Mel Tillis, Jerry Reed, and Waylon Jennings—aided by the fantastic Shel Silverstein—formed a group called Old Dogs. All of them were over sixty, and their repertoire consisted of Silverstein songs—some new, some old–that dealt with the fun and the frustration of getting older. The quartet would record a one-off live album, which would subsequently be divided into two separate volumes. This collection brings both albums together, presenting the concert in its entirety.
Silverstein’s stock in trade was humor and innuendo, and it’s here in spades; the opening theme song, with its hilarious refrain of “Old dogs…but we can still bury a bone,” sets the tone for the rest of the set. There’s no wallowing in self-pity or melancholy about aging to be found here; instead, there are songs about the joys of the comforts of married life (“Hard When It Ain’t”), frustration with women (“Alimony,” “Old Man’s Blues,” “Wait Until Tomorrow,” “Cut The Mustard”), and being too old in a young man’s world (“Come Back,” “When I Was.”). But death isn’t ignored, either; “Rough On The Living” is one of the more realistic—and depressing—recollections of the dichotomy of how people are glowing in the passing of an older legend and how they really were when they were alive. Then there’s “Still Gonna Die” and “Time,” the one-two closing punch of seriousness that closes out the show; sure, there were laughs to be had earlier through the set, but the truth is still there: we’re in our twilight.
In reality, they certainly were. Released in 1998, less than a year later, Silverstein would pass away; Jennings would follow suit in 2002, and Reed, a decade on. But the sadness of those realities doesn’t take away from the fact that Old Dogs is one hilarious, enjoyable thumbing of the nose to aging and the younger generation.