Don’t you just miss listening to outlaw? No, we’re not talking about serving jail time or committing felony. The “outlaw” that we are referring to the artists who have control over their music rather than conform to country music’s norms. Most of the time the themes in outlaw songs are serious, ranging from dealing with heartache to alcohol and drug use. Whatever it is, clearly singers are in control of their music.
The story of outlaw country music begins in various places and revolves around who is telling the tale.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 songs that embodies the “outlaw” in outlaw music:
- “Ain’t Living Long Like This” – Waylon Jennings
Originally composed by Rodney Crowell, Waylon Jennings’ version reached the top spot in the country charts. It’s a sensational song that sings about an outlaw living his life on the constant run from the authorities.
- “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” – Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson
Quite a straightforward song that tells mothers not to raise their sons as cowboys due to its arduous culture of cowboy life.
- “Mama Tried” – Merle Haggard
An autobiographical song, Haggard sings about how his mother tried to change him, but could not due to his “incorrigible” nature.
- “I’m the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised” – Johnny Paycheck
The lyrics, the beat, and the tempo along with Paycheck’s profound vocals embodies much of what country music should be.
- “Family Tradition” – Hank Williams Jr.
A testament to Williams’ rebellion that is present, not only in his lyrics and music, but also his lifestyle, direction, and musical identity.
- “How ‘Bout You” – Eric Church
A song seems to stereotype country folks who are hardworking and respectful. However, it seems to be some form of protest or even mockery.
- “Cocaine Blues” – Johnny Cash
“Cocaine Blues” touches on a grim subject of being under the influence of drugs and alcohol…and its grim outcome.
- “High Cost of Living” – Jamey Johnson
Johnson sings about a man who has made some bad decision, “High Cost of Living” touches on how people’s lives are based on the choices they make.
- “Long Haired Country Boy” – Charlie Daniels
Daniels sings in reference to alcohol and drugs in “Long Haired Country Boy”. The theme is rather serious and talks about tolerance.
- “Whiskey River” – Willie Nelson
An heartbroken lament that begs a river of alcohol will never run dry to help numb the pain of separation. Nelson embodies the genre of outlaw music with “Whiskey River” thanks to laidback twangy vocals and acoustic guitar play.