Personnel: Waylon Jennings (vocals, guitar); Waylon Jennings; Reggie Young (guitar, electric guitar); Larry Whitmore, Dave Kirby, Billy Ray Reynolds (guitar); Sheldon Kurland, Lennie Haight, Steven Maxwell Smith, Lawrence Herzberg (violin); Tommy Williams (fiddle); Martha McCrory (cello); Don Brooks, Donnie Brooks (harmonica); Kyle Lehning (trumpet, keyboards); Andrew McMahon (organ); Henry Strzelecki, Joe Allen, Bee Spears (bass instrument); William Paul Ackerman, Will Ackerman, Willie Ackerman, Buddy Harmon (drums); Jerry Gropp (vocals, guitar); Billy Sanford, Dale Sellers (guitar, electric guitar); Ralph Mooney (guitar, steel guitar); Ritchie Albright (guitar, drums); Eddie Hinton, Randy Scruggs, Steve Young (guitar); Stephanie Woolf, Brenton Banks (violin); Marvin Chantry (viola); Byron Bach (cello); David Briggs (piano); Andy McMahon (organ); Buddy Harman (drums).
This is the quintessential "Outlaw country" album. Waylon Jennings spent the early '70s working his way up to this rough-and-tumble masterpiece, arguably the finest album of his prolific career. Jennings was so taken with the songwriting of Nashville rowdy Billy Joe Shaver that he decided to record this all-Shaver album (with the exception of the Fritts/Seals-penned "You Asked Me To"), which helped put Shaver on the map as the poet laureate of the Outlaw set.
Jennings eschewed the lush countrypolitan sound in favor of a raw, electrified approach that owed more to the Rolling Stones than to Billy Sherrill. With a small band and simple arrangements, he introduced contemporary rock-oriented beats into his hard-hitting country sound, adding some funky grit to Shaver's common-man poetics on tunes about the tougher side of life. HONKY TONK HEROES inspired a subsequent generation of country iconoclasts, as well as spurring on Jennings's contemporaries like Willie Nelson and Tompall Glaser. It stands as one of the most important country recordings of the '70s.
Spin (7/99, p.138) - 8 (out of 10) - "...[Waylon Jennings] brought his own band into the studio and self-produced a concept album that became the template for a movement....the raw presentation...changed the rules in Nashville...forever..."