We've already visited Willie Nelson's Shotgun Willie, Charlie Rich's Behind Closed Doors and Waylon Jennings's Lonesome On'ry and Mean this year. Something from Austin, a countrypolitan classic and one of outlaw country's first hits. And they all came from 1973, a year old school Nashville-style country was being challenged by the outlaw movement from within and by true outsiders like Olivia Newton John, John Denver and even Tony Orlando and Dawn whose "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" got a lot of play on country radio.
In this round up, all you need to remember are three words. Billy. Joe. Shaver. The first three albums all have versions of Shaver's "Old Five and Dimers ( Like Me)"
On his second album of 1973, Honky Tonk Heroes, Waylon Jennings recorded an album almost completely composed of Billy Joe Shaver songs. Shaver ( practically sitting in Waylon's lap on the album cover) is a good ole boy from a small Texas town who worked on a farm, lost parts of his fingers in a sawmill, raised hell and wrote songs about real people that were covered by everyone from Elvis ( "You Asked Me To") to the Allman Brothers ("Sweet Mama") to Kris Kristofferson. His way of looking at things helped Jennings define the outlaw country sound.
Shaver's 1973 debut is packed with classic self-penned tunes like the title track, "L.A. Turnaround", and the autobiographical "I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train ". The most highly recommended album in this post.
One of country music's great songwriters ( whose "I Love" was an early example of a cross over hit), Tom T Hall was at the height of his powers when he released The Rhymer and Other Five and Dimers, featuring a certain Billy Joe Shaver tune I've already named and the heartbreaking "I Flew Over Our House Last Night".
Leon Russell returned to his roots on this album of mostly classic country covers recorded at Bradley's Barn with J J Cale. Seems originally he wanted to release the album Hank Wilson's Back as Hank Wilson but the cat got out of the bag pretty quickly. Some decent stuff here as opposed to the rest of what Russell was doing around this time: overly arranged three disc live albums.
The inescapable country single of 1973 forced Jeanne Pruett to go on some severe diets for all of her TV appearances. At one point she told a reporter "Between us, Loretta Lynn and I have lost enough to start a new girl singer".
After writing "Ladies Love Outlaws" for Waylon Jennings, Lee Clayton made his MCA debut with a self-titled album that featured Carly Simon doing backing vocals on the song "New York Suite 409".
The title track from this concept album made the Country Singles Top 20 and has since become the theme to Dollywood . Maria Muldaur sings the song on her 1973 self titled debut.
After Billy Joe Shaver's "Ride Me Down Easy" nearly broke him back into the Top 10, Bare teamed up with comedic songwriter Shel Silverstein on this huge comeback live album recorded in front of his rowdy friends. When Silverstein first played "The Winner", Bare had to stop him halfway through because he was laughing too hard. Bobby Bare Jr, seen below, is an alt-country star today.
I've added this 1973 Jeannie Seely album just because Willie Nelson does such a sweet cover of her hit single "Can I Sleep in Your Arms" on 1975's Red Headed Stranger
One of my all time favorite country voices, Don Williams made his debut with Volume 1 on 1973. Four hits came off this album including "Come Early Morning" which peaked at #12.
Johnny Rodriguez was country music's first Latin star ( beating Freddy Fender by a few years). In 1973 he had two #1 singles , including "Ridin' My Thumb to Mexico", and a #1 album .