Leavin’ Town was Waylon Jenning’s third full-length album release, his second for RCA with production by Chet Atkins. Though worth a listen, the album is most notable, as with much of Waylon’s early RCA output, as a prime example of what he would soon be railing against as he went on to spearhead the Outlaw movement. Here, much of the vibe is conventional, Waylon’s non-mainstream sensibilities just about making themselves felt in the choice of some of the material.
The title track, a Bobby Bare composition, is an enjoyable piece of light country pop given teeth by some stinging lead guitar, likely from Jerry Reed (Atkins’ go-to studio player at the time, present on many of Jennings’ RCA sessions of the mid-’60s). If You Really Want Me To I’ll Go is a standout due to Reed’s unmistakable guitar arrangement, here on Dobro rather than his signature nylon strung instrument.
Next up is a Harlan Hubbard song, with a title losing enough in translation to tickle the funny bones of any British schoolboy. It’s called Time to Bum Again. Alright. Settle down. Once the culture shock passes it’s a nice enough number with the Dobro to the fore. There’s more Hubbard balladry later on this side; clearly Waylon was a fan, as the following year he recorded a whole album of Hubbard’s songs (Ol’ Waylon Sings Ol’ Harlan).
The rest of the side is ballad heavy, mostly typical of Nashville’s Countrypolitan sound if a touch more “down home”. In amongst that there’s the odd welcome Tex-Mex touch, and Time Will Tell the Story, the first Jennings original of the album (his only sole writing credit here).
Side Two shows clear signs of Waylon’s genre-stretching approach with its folkier/rootsier vibe informed in part by the use of writers from a distinctly non-Nashville background, Rod McKuen and Gordon Lightfoot. Kicking the side off, though, is a Mel Tillis number, You’re Gonna Wonder About Me. It’s good but seriously hampered by overdone “heavenly Chorus” backing vocals.
For Lovin’ Me, the Lightfoot composition, sounds like “proper” Waylon, steeped in his rock and roll origins. It’s a great track, easily the best on offer here. However the McKuen song, Doesn’t Anybody Know My Name, is a real relic of its time, suffering from cloying lyrics and more of those overwrought backing vocals.
Anita, You’re Dreaming is a co-write between Waylon and Don Bowman which fits firmly with Waylon’s later ballad style, bringing to mind the likes of This Time. Falling For You is another Tex-Mex flavoured number surprisingly written by legendary steel player Ralph Mooney who would go on to be a fixture in Waylon’s touring and recording band. The album finishes with another Jennings/Bowman cowrite in that same ballad style, I Wonder Just Where I Went Wrong, with its brief Doors-like organ break keeping things interesting.
Leavin’ Town is a pleasant enough 29 minutes with a few standout moments. If you’re hoping for Outlaw-style material though, you’d be best to look elsewhere. As for early Waylon, there are many reissues and compilations drawing on his first, independent and somewhat more rock’n’roll release, JD’s, which are more than worth your time.
The tape, an ’80s budget reissue in excellent order, was bought for about a quid online.