An Outlaw And A Lady: A Memoir Of Music, Life With Waylon, And The Faith That Brought Me Home, by Jessi Colter with David Ritz
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishing. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Are you a fan of the Outlaw country sound of the 1970’s, and want to know more about how it was like to live with Waylon Jennings? If so, this is a good book to read from someone who knew, namely his talented widow, the only woman to appear in the defining Outlaw album that gave a name to the movement as a whole, Jessi Colter, who happened to be the daughter of a molybdenum miner and early race car driver (!) and his preaching wife. Do you like reading memoirs that discuss the connection between faith and life in the music industry ? If so, this is also a good book to read from someone whose career straddled the line between secular and religious music. Perhaps not coincidentally, this book also serves to promote an album of new material from Jessi Colter that is taken from the Psalms, which makes perfect sense given the contents of this book. This is a book written in such a way that it gives the reader exactly what you are looking for, an honest and faithful account of a dramatic life. It would be churlish to complain about getting exactly what you are looking for.
In terms of its contents, this book offers few surprises. The narrative is chronological, beginning with a discussion of the backgrounds of the author’s parents, their dynamic relationship together, as well as the author’s childhood and how she basically lucked into a career as a professional musician thanks to the support of Duane Eddy, who became the author’s first husband. The author talks about her life with Waylon, her love for him despite his lengthy drug habit, her own therapy through writing, her abandonment of the faith of her childhood and her recovery of that faith as a wife and mother. Throughout this book one can see the concern that Jessi has for her family and for her faith, and see that she is not particularly motivated by commercial gain. She appears to have enjoyed telling her stories and expressing her emotions through song, interpreting the songs of others, and in enjoying the fellowship of others of like mind and great talent through her own life so far.
There is a great deal to praise in terms of this book. There are a lot of song lyrics and some thoughtful explanation of the tangle of confessional emotions that went into the writing of that song. Jessi Coulter really nails what it means to be a writer who pours fears and longing into writing without being able to verbalize such feelings in conversations with the people the song is about. Like my own writing, Coulter’s was deeply personal and a form of indirect and implicit communication in the absence of frequent personal conversation. The co-writer of this book, appropriately, vanishes into the woodwork and lets Jessi tell her compelling and exciting story, and this book is remarkable and notable for its sense of honesty. Coulter is candid about her waywardness as a young person, refreshingly lacking in ego about her talents to the point of being self-effacing and diffident, honest about her failings as a wife to Duane Eddy and step-mother to Waylon’s three children from previous marriages, and candid about her desire for romance even as a somewhat aged widow. Even though this is a book with few surprises, it delivers exactly what one wants and is a worthwhile and enjoyable and insightful read, one that is highly recommended for those who happen to like the material this book covers faithfully and candidly.
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