Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Highwaymen

  • The Road Goes on Forever [Liberty, 1995] A-
  • Super Hits [Columbia, 1999] Dud
  • The Very Best of the Highwaymen [Columbia/Legacy, 2016] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Road Goes on Forever [Liberty, 1995]
Uncle John Cash is the Monotone King, and Waylon and Willie have gotten so creaky they make the long ghastly Kris Kristofferson sound like just another old guy who can't clear his throat anymore. This million-dollar quartet was 242 years old as of last July 4, and while they open and close with two of the very few outlaw songs to join the canon as their dotage encroached, by Steve Earle and Robert Earl Keen respectively, they concentrate on what they know best: death, immortality, and its correlatives, compassion prominent among them. Their good-hearted whore, good-hearted waitress, and good-hearted wife are idealizations, but the surpassing wisdom these idealizations express and embody is recommended to cynics everywhere. Inspirational Slogan: "I am what I am 'cause I ain't what I used to be." A-

Super Hits [Columbia, 1999] Dud

The Very Best of the Highwaymen [Columbia/Legacy, 2016]
Nelson, Jennings, Cash, & Kristofferson joined their voices in American song during the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton years, and listening back, the greatest of these was Nelson--the man could sing (and still can). As a group, NJCK are better passing lines around than joining their voices grandly in song--"Desperados Waiting for a Train" gets buried alive, "Born and Raised in Black and White" lost in the crowd. But they top Arlo's wistful "City of New Orleans" as well as Bob Seger's mawkish "Against the Wind," equal George's slapstick "The King Is Gone," and forever define Robert Earl Keen's highwayman saga "The Road Goes on Forever." Also, believe it or not, they have politics: "Welfare Line" describes white people, "American Remains" shovels a foreclosure on top of a drought, and a crucial cameo from Johnny Rodriguez extracts every ounce of outrage from the Woody Guthrie classic properly entitled as it is here: "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)." A-