“Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris and the Renegades of Nashville” by Michael Streissguth (It Books, 304 pages, in stores)
In this nonfiction book, Michael Streissguth tells the story of country music's outlaw movement, a charge led by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.
Unfortunately, much like the protagonists in Waylon and Willie's songs, the book has a good heart but sometimes goes astray.
Streissguth has high ambitions, attempting to intertwine the changes in country music in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the shifting political climate both nationally and locally in Nashville. It's an admirable vision, but he would need many more pages to adequately fulfill it.
Instead, “Outlaw” is a work so crammed with names and places that it's hard to follow.
When focused on his three main characters, Streissguth does some terrific storytelling. Jennings, in particular, comes to life through shared insight and anecdotes.
But too often, Streissguth leads readers down side roads that are unfulfilling and unclear of purpose. In trying to paint a complete picture of the era, he introduces way too many characters, and they drift in and out as the book moves along. His attempts to weave in politicians and show business also seem like an uncomfortable fit.
Despite its flaws, “Outlaw” provides a fascinating view of the country music business in the '60s and '70s. As Streissguth goes inside recording sessions and crucial negotiations, he brings in outsiders for an up-close look at an important era.