Live – American Outlaws (Legacy)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., June 10, 2016
The Three Tenors? Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young? Classicists José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti soared opera to the top of the pops globally, while the latter all-star grouping took crossover folk mainstream, but the Highwaymen proved country music more majestic than rock & roll and thrice as authentic. Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Austin's Willie Nelson brought three superstar careers and one Rhodes scholar who penned "Me and Bobby McGee" to bear on 1985's The Highwaymen, and over the next decade, the trio of Texans and lone Arkansan released a succeeding pair of diminished return LPs. Live – American Outlaws, a 3-CD/1-DVD wallet, bottles the foursome's 120-proof white lightning. Two dizzying hours from New York's Nassau Coliseum in 1990 lends atomic mass to a pair of audio discs overseen by Nelson side harp Mickey Raphael and most of the visuals with a breathless round robin of traded verses and stunning shared standards. As the Red Headed Stranger's reedy warble croons your swoon, in swoops Jennings' stentorian boom to obliterate the vocal gauntlet, only to be engulfed by Cash's "Ring of Fire" baritone and polished off by Kristofferson's gritty bark. Jimmy Webb's haunting "Highwayman," sophomore runaway "Silver Stallion," and Guy Clark's "Desperados Waiting for a Train" built stately platforms for their four-headed master, and alongside Jennings trading oaken rhymes with Cash on "There Ain't No Good Chain Gang," and Kristofferson proving himself his mentors' equal on "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and "Help Me Make It Through the Night" back to back, they lead the meteor shower. Willie pulls the Trigger on his six-string solo in KK's "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)" to the delight of Waylon, who later returns the favor with extended picking on "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?" as the Man in Black grins ear to ear after having outed wife June Carter Cash in the audience on his way to a standing ovation for "A Boy Named Sue." A third CD highlighting two Farm Aid reunions encores a hail of jawbreakers from the ultimate murderer's row.