In 1998, Waylon Jennings released his final studio LP, Closing in on the Fire, featuring cameos from rock and country stars like Sting, Mick Jagger and Travis Tritt. Had he not died four years later at 64, Jennings may have added another, possibly very different album to his catalog. The demos for that project will see the light of day on November 24th via a pair of special Record Store Day releases: New Stuff and Here’s to the Champion (Muhammad Ali).
Both to be issued on 12-inch colored vinyl by Jennings’ son, Shooter, on his Black Country Rock boutique label, the two releases come from solo sessions Jennings recorded in the late Nineties. Shooter discovered the cassette tape demos, marked simply “New Stuff,” in the Arizona warehouse that holds his father’s personal effects.
In its Record Store Day guise, New Stuff features 11 previously unreleased songs performed by Jennings with just an acoustic guitar. The opening track, “Good Time,” premieres today on Rolling Stone Country. Raw and dark, Jennings’ gruff baritone gives the song a sinister edge as he twists around the meaning of the title, a counterpoint of sorts to the freewheeling attitude of his classic Willie Nelson duet “Good Hearted Woman.” “That one reminds me the most of him at that time, where his mind was,” Shooter says of “Good Time.”
One of the songs on New Stuff, “Here’s to the Champion (Muhammad Ali),” forms the basis of the other special release, a moving, if odd, tribute to the late boxing legend. Jennings was a fan of Ali and the two developed an unlikely friendship, with the champ even attending the christening of the newly born Shooter in 1979.
“You stood alone and you had to be strong, you proved to be right when your country was wrong,” sings Jennings, nodding to Ali’s protest of the Vietnam War, in the original demo, which is paired with three reinterpretations by other artists, as well as a fresh mix by Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb. The new recordings include versions by Kris Kristofferson and Jennings’ widow, Jessi Colter; Willie Nelson and Folk Uke (sung over Jennings’ demo); Austin guitar hero Jesse Dayton; and Shooter and Jaime Wyatt. Listen to Shooter and Wyatt’s version below.
Here’s the full track listing for Waylon Jennings’ New Stuff:
1. “Good Time”
2. “The Best Side of Me”
3. “Changin’ Baby’s Mind”
4. “World By the Tail”
5. “Along for the Ride”
6. “What Good Would It Do”
7. “A Few Decembers Ago”
8. “Here’s to the Champion (Muhammad Ali)”
10. “Billy, Whitey and Me”
11. “Talk Good Boogie”
Here’s the Muhammad Ali project’s tracklist:
1. “Here’s to the Champion (Muhammad Ali)” – Waylon Jennings (Dave Cobb Mix)
2. “Here’s to the Champion (Muhammad Ali)” – Jaime Wyatt and Shooter Jennings
3. “Here’s to the Champion (Muhammad Ali)” – Willie Nelson and Folk Uke with Waylon Jennings
4. “Here’s to the Champion (Muhammad Ali)” – Waylon Jennings (Original Demo)
5. “Here’s to the Champion (Muhammad Ali)” – Jesse Dayton
6. “Here’s to the Champion (Muhammad Ali)” – Jessi Colter and Kris Kristofferson