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Music 101

Outlaw Country Heirs

by Jim Allen

Outlaw Country Heirs


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In the '70s, a willful wave of badass country singers led by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson arrived to bring danger, rawness and reality (along with a raucous rock 'n' roll influence) to country music. Giving rise to what was labeled the outlaw country movement, they gave the staid Music City sound of the era a much-needed shakeup. And, well, Nashville has never stopped needing new outlaws. Fortunately, each successive generation has brought along a fresh crop of torch-carriers who aren't afraid to get down and dirty.

At the end of the '80s, just as country's commercialized "hat acts" were beginning to take over, mavericks like Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams came to the fore with an edgier, earthier alternative. Later, full-blooded heirs to the outlaw throne, like Waylon's son Shooter and Hank Williams III (grandson of the original outlaw), busted through the door. More recently, rough-edged iconoclasts like Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert have proven that there's still a place for the outlaw country spirit at the top of the country charts. Here's a heavy-duty dose of the uncompromising artists who have helped keep the outlaw flag flying.

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