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Jennings: The Lone Wolf Survives

May 05, 1986|ROBERT HILBURN

Waylon Jennings doesn't have the aching vocal character of George Jones, but his voice offers the best blend of character and dynamics of any country singer of his generation. After an artistic dry spell, the veteran vocalist has changed record labels and seemingly regained his touch.

There are too many uninvolving songs and anonymous arrangements for his new LP to be a triumph, but the best numbers worked well Saturday night at the Universal Amphitheatre. "Will the Wolf Survive," the Los Lobos song, is an uplifting statement of struggle and values, while the nostalgic and melancholy touches in the more traditionally country "Suddenly Single" and "They Ain't Got 'Em All" are also ideally suited for his style. The somewhat faceless backing, however, would have benefited from more of Jennings' old stinging guitar licks.

The bill also included an especially personable Jessi Colter and Southern Pacific, a country-rock group with above-average musicianship and a feel for Eagles-like romantic tension, but without any commanding sense of direction.

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