Willie And The Boys: Willie’s Stash Volume II (Vinyl Release) By Willie Nelson

June 24, 2018

Many artists who have been active for decades, both dead and alive,  seem to have an unlimited reservoir of unreleased material. Prince has a treasure trove in the Paisley Park vaults, Elvis has the RCA archives, Dylan has his seemingly endless Bootleg Series, and Willie Nelson has his stash.

Thus far, Nelson’s archival series has been a family affair. The first release from his stash was December Day with his sister Bobbie. Now comes Willie And The Boys: Willie’s Stash Volume 2, which features sons Lucas and Micah.

Nelson describes the album as…’kinda like the country version of ‘Stardust’ and that is an apt description. It consists of classic country songs that many people are unfamiliar with these days.

The album’s core is seven compositions by Hank Williams Sr. Songs such as “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Cold Cold Heart,” “Why Don’t You Love Me’ and particularly “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” are perfect for Nelson’s laid back approach and cadence.

Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On,” Hank Cochran’s “Can I Sleep In Your Arms,” and Hank Locklin’s “Send me The Pillow You Dream On” are re-imagined by one of the great interpreter’s of country music. The only original tune is Nelson’s “Healing Hands Of Time,” which fits the overall concept of the album well.

The vinyl pressing has a superb sound as one would expect with modern day recording techniques. There is something to be said for listening to classic country the old fashioned way.

Willie Nelson is like “Old Man River” in that he just keeps flowing along. Willie Nelson And The Boys is a fine album that makes one wonder what else is lurking in his stash.


God’s Problem Child By Willie Nelson

November 29, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Willie Nelson is like Old Man River; he just keeps rolling along. At the age of 84, he has returned with one of the better albums of his career titled God’s Problem Child. Lately he has relied on cover songs and albums dedicated to other people’s music, but now all 13 tracks are newly recorded songs, including seven co-written by Nelson.

While my copy of the album is on vinyl with a crystal clear sound, it has also been released digitally and as a CD.

Nelson is now considered an American musical icon. His voice is instantly recognizable and he has the ability to interpret songs from many different styles. His voice may have lost a little of its power but he makes up for that fact with wonderful phrasing.

His new album travels in a number of directions. There have been a number of reports Nelson’s death and “Still Not Dead” is his making fun of the situation. The more serious “Delete and Fast-Forward” are his thoughts about the recent Presidential election.

There are two tracks that reflect his age. The title track includes a vocal performance by Leon Russell, in what may have been his last performance before his death. The album’s final track, “He Won’t Ever Be Gone, is his eulogy to friend and fellow-country musician Merle Haggard.

Perhaps the best track is “Little House on The Hill.” It was written by the 92 year old Lyndel Rhodes, who is the mother of producer Buddy Cannon. It is a classic Nelson performance.

That Willie Nelson is still recording and performing about 100 concerts a years in his mid-80’s is remarkable. That he is able to create such a high quality album is a testament to his talent as one of country music’s most creative musicians.

God’s Problem Child is a must listen for his fan base and lovers of country music.


Band Of Brothers By Willie Nelson

July 22, 2014

81xD3Bfd63L__SL1500_Like Old Man River, Willie Nelson just keeps on rolling along.

Now 81 years old, Willie Nelson shows no signs of slowing down. He began his career in the mid-1950’s and released his first album way back in 1962. Now well over 100 albums into his career, he has issued his fourth new studio album in three years under the title Band Of Brothers.

The best part of his new release is 9 of the 14 songs are original compositions making it the first release of mostly original material since 1996’s Spirit.

While Band Of Brothers is very much a modern recording, there is a wisp of nostalgia involved. Nelson is now an octogenarian, which means most of his life has been lived and sung. Songs such as the originals “Band Of Brothers” and “I’ve Got A Lot Of Traveling To Do,” plus his cover of the Gordie Sampson/Bill Anderson tune “The Songwriters” wistfully reflect his journey while projecting an optimism toward the future.

He does not explore any new ground but covers the old well. His music is subtle and lulls the listener into an appreciation. His voice has always been distinctive and immediately recognizable and has acquired a wonderful patina as the years have passed. His songs such as “Wives And Girlfriends,” “Guitar In A Corner,”  “Send Me A Picture,” and “Used To Her” paint pictures set to music, which is something Willie Nelson has always been able to do.

The cover songs have a little more pep and provide a counterpoint next to his original compositions. Billy Joe Shaver approaches country music from a different perspective than Nelson and his “The Git Go,” featuring a duet with Jamey Johnson and “Hard To Be An Outlaw” provides a welcome relief.  “Crazy Like Me,” co-written by Billy Burnette is more in line with his usual brand of song.

Willie Nelson is an American country icon and it is inspirational for him to be releasing so much quality material this late in his career. Band Of Brothers is an album that adds some additional glow to his legacy.

 


To All The Girls by Willie Nelson

December 23, 2013

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Like Old Man River, Willie Nelson just keeps rolling along at the age of 80. During his nearly six-decade career, he has released over 100 albums, which have sold tens-of-millions of copies. He has now returned with his third album of new material released during the past 16 months.

To All The Girls is an album of newly recorded duets with female singers. While the 18 women who participated in the project are mostly country performers, there are some who cross over into different styles; Norah Jones, Mavis Staples, and Sheryl Crow.

His voice is still a fine instrument and sounds a little stronger than on his past couple of releases. It has acquired a nice patina and he has always been an excellent partner when participating on duets. He has the ability to mold his style and sounds with voices that are very different from his own.

A wonderfully interesting track is “Always On My Mind” with Carrie Underwood. The subtlety of his own voice runs counterpoint to her booming pop vocals. Their approaches may be dissimilar but it works well.

There are a number of highlights on the album. “No Mas Amour” with Alison Krauss has a Latin American feel as it just meanders along. “Grandma’s Hands” travels in a different direction with the unique voice of Mavis Staples and some creative interaction between Nelson’s guitar picking and Mickey Raphael’s harmonica work. Emmylou Harris helps to transform Bruce Springsteen’s “Dry Lightning” into a song of poignant beauty. He joins together with his daughter Paula to rework the Creedence Clearwater classic. “Have You Ever Seen The Rain.” It emerges as a sad presentation.

Some of the other participants include the ever-present Dolly Parton, Rosanne Cash, Shelby Lynne, Wynonna Judd, Miranda Lambert, and Loretta Lynn where Nelson takes the place of Conway Twitty on “Somewhere Between.”

To All The Girls takes its place as one of Willie Nelson’s better releases. It was thoughtfully constructed as the songs and guest artists match well. Like a fine wine. Willie Nelson seems to be aging well.


Moments Of Forever by Willie Nelson

July 21, 2009

Willie Nelson turns 75 in a few months and, like Old Man River, just keeps rolling along.

Nelson began his career in 1956. Since that time, he has written hundreds of songs, released over fifty albums and sold tens of millions of records and CDs. He has even starred in a number of Hollywood films. Along the way he developed a unique and recognizable vocal style and became an American musical icon.

Released in 2008, Moment Of Forever was produced by Kenny Chesney, who also duets on one of the songs. But this release is a mellow album that breaks no new ground.

As with most of Nelson’s latest releases, there are some high points and a number of average songs. Kris Kristofferson’s title song, “Moment Of Forever,” is made for his voice. Kristofferson has always been able to paint a picture with words and Nelson brings these words to life with his voice and acoustic guitar with minimal backing. Everyone has moments that remain forever.

There are several other notable songs contained on Moment Of Forever. Willie Nelson takes Randy Newman’s “Louisitania 1927” and reworks it into a biting commentary on the government’s reaction to the New Orleans’s flooding problems after hurricane Katrina. This song shows that Willie Nelson has retained his social consciousness even at age 75. Likewise, Dave Matthews “Gravedigger” is stripped down to the basics and presented as an anti-war song. Nelson goes in a different direction with “When I Was Young and Grandma Wasn’t Old;” this mid-tempo number is a positive and nostalgic look back at life’s passing and its memories.

Nelson contributes only three original compositions on Moment of Forever: “Over You Again” and “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore” are average at best and are typical Nelson fare, while “Always Now” is an excellent song that reflects upon aging and the past. “Always Now” is presented in the laid back Nelson style and is a very personal song.

The real miss on the album is a seven-plus minute version of Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.” It is presented in a rock & roll style with backing brass and is a place Nelson just should not go musically.

Many of Willie Nelson’s country music contemporaries are gone, yet he has remained and continues to perform between one hundred and two hundred concerts a year. Moment Of Forever may not be Willie Nelson’s best work, but it is still presentable and in many ways relevant, and at 75 that’s more than enough.