* Singers feel honored to record tribute to Jennings
* His widow recalls Jennings' songwriting
By Vernell Hackett
NASHVILLE, Tenn, Feb. 10 (Reuters Life!) - Waylon Jennings' lasting influence on music shines through in a just-released tribute album of his songbook, recorded by a diverse group of performers and friends of the late "outlaw" country singer.
"It would have just made my dad happy that the album was cut with some of his old band and friends, like Kris Kristofferson," son Shooter Jennings said.
Kristofferson, Trace Adkins, Jamey Johnson and the group Alabama are among those contributing to the first of a three-album set, "The Music Inside, Volume 1: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings," which was released on Tuesday. Two subsequent volumes will come out later this year.
"Now there's a whole new crop of artists influenced by my dad's music. If we did another tribute album 10 years from now, there would be a whole new group of people who would cite him as their influence," said Shooter of his father, who died in 2002, aged 64.
"It's a huge honor," Adkins said. "Waylon is a true legend. Getting to record 'You Asked Me To' with some of the original Waymore's Blues Band who helped bring life to this great music was very special and something I'll always remember."
The group Alabama, which came off the road in 2004, reunited to record "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way," the first single released from the tribute album.
Early on, Alabama performed Jennings' songs at club appearances. "What an opportunity for us to go back in the studio, play and record live like we used to, and pay tribute to a true legend in music, not country music, in music, period," singer Randy Owen said.
"This is probably as close as I'll get to being a real outlaw," fellow member Teddy Gentry chimed in.
Hot country newcomer Jamey Johnson recorded the Jennings classic "This Time" for the album, which brought back memories for Jennings' widow, singer Jessi Colter.
"That was the first song he wrote after we were together," she said. "He hadn't written in a long time -- he had kind of lost confidence in his songwriting.
"We were driving to New Mexico through the desert on our way to Tuba City (Ariz.) to do a concert on an Indian reservation. It was one of our first concerts together. He started writing the song on the way there and finished it in the car. It went on to become his first No. 1 single.
"I think he was just writing a song that meant something to him, about hindsight in a relationship and telling the girl, 'if you're coming back it's gonna be different this time.'
"I was there the day Jamey recorded the song and I think he was feeling the same way that day as Waylon felt when he wrote the song. He really nailed it," Colter said.
A song that was a favorite of Jennings' but that he did not write, "Rose in Paradise," was recorded as a duet by Kristofferson and Patty Griffin. The song's co-writer Jim McBride recalled how Jennings honored his commitment to it.
"Somebody else actually cut the song before Waylon did. Then Loretta Lynn heard it and suggested we pitch it to Waylon," McBride said. "As soon as Waylon heard it, he wanted to record it, but he had just finished an album. He asked us if we would hold onto it for him until he recorded again. He was true to his word, and that was one of the first songs he recorded for his next album."
On "Good Hearted Woman," made famous by Jennings and friend Willie Nelson, Colter joined newcomer Sunny Sweeney to give the song a woman's touch.
"When Sunny walked in the room she was wearing a Waylon Jennings T-shirt. I took that as a sign that we should do the song together," Colter said.
"Waylon's influence on me, my peers and those that came before us is iconic," Sweeney said.
"Getting to record 'Good Hearted Woman' with Jessi Colter, the person the song was written about, personalizes Waylon's impact on me," she said.
Other Jennings songs covered on the disc include "Just To Satisfy You," by John Hiatt with vocals by Jennings; "Belle of the Ball," by Shooter Jennings; "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand," by James Otto; and "I'm A Ramblin' Man," by newcomer Randy Houser. There is also a Jennings cut on the album, "Go Down Rockin."