So, we've already established that Metallica makes a damned good cover band, but when their frontman lets loose by himself, he's not half-bad either.
When I've Always Been Crazy: A Tribute to Waylon Jennings came out in 2003, there was a distinct feeling of "one of these things is not like the others" in the track list. You had Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, Hank Jr., Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt and others. Then, toward the end of the album, you have Metallica's James Hetfield. Huh?
Surprise, though, Hetfield does one of the best covers on the record of one of my absolute favorite Waylon tunes.
The song starts out with a little heavier version of Waylon's original riff. The guitar effect gives it a kind of psychedelic feel with a little more rock in the guitar sound, giving the song one foot in Waylon's original and a foot in heavy metal. As we get to the first chorus, the song turns into a full-on metal tune, then cranks up even further for a punk-influenced run at the chorus.
It's certainly like nothing Waylon would have ever done with the song, but it sticks to his original melody, and in my opinion, it completely nails the spirit and attitude of the original. Of course, Hetfield is kind of celebrating outlaw more than Waylon, who was being ironic with the song. But, hey, that's metal.
We all know that Johnny Cash has earned a lot of respect in metal circles, but I'm surprised that Waylon doesn't have just as much cred with that crowd. The honky tonk sound might not fit, but his approach to the music business, his attitude and, indeed, some of his subject matter, is about as metal as it gets. If you came to this song for Hetfield, please stay for some really good songs from the original guy.