Neil Young Debuts New Song & Joins Willie Nelson In Saratoga Springs

September 24th, 2018

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And finishing off with Willie Nelson

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by:  Jeffrey Greenblatt

The second leg of the Outlaw Music Festival unofficially came to an end last night in upstate New York with a show at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs. On Sunday, the bill featured performances from Particle Kid, Lukas Nelson & The Promise Of The Real, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Sturgill Simpson and Willie Nelson. For the first and only time on the packaged tour, the lineup also featured a set from Neil Young and Promise of The Real.

Young and his frequent backing band delivered a 13-song set that followed a similar script to their appearance the day prior at Farm Aim with a notable addition of the debut of a new song. The legendary musician got his portion of the night underway with a “Tell Me Why” and “Field Of Opportunity,” both of which had been played the previous night. The opener off After The Gold Rush was given the full band treatment for just the second time since 1987, while the subsequent tune from Comes A Time had been sitting on the shelf since 2015 prior to this weekend’s pair of performances.

From there Young & Co. continued to dig in for some deeper album cuts with “Country Home” from Ragged Glory and “Show Me” from Peace Trail. “Heart Of Gold” kicked off a stretch some of Young’s more well-known material that featured the likes of “Lotta Love,” “Human Highway” and “Powderfinger.” Prior to their take on “Powderfinger,” Young delivered the first-ever performance of a brand-new song that is tentatively being called “(Eternity).” A song later “Are You Ready For The Country?” got an electric band rendering for the first time in over two years. Young and Promise Of The Real closed out their set with “Ohio” and “Rockin’ In Free World.”

Young also participated in Willie Nelson’s headling set. He joined the 85-year-old for a mid-set performance of “On the Road Again” and reemerged during the finale that featured “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

[Tell Me Why]

[Field Of Opportunity/ Country Home]

[Lotta Love]


[Rockin In The Free World]


September 23rd, 2018

Thank you, Dot Redfern, for sharing your great photo of Willie welcoming everyone to Farm Aid.

Farm Aid Friends and Willie Nelson Fans

September 23rd, 2018

Thank you JoJo from Jacksonville for great photos you took at Farm Aid yesterday.



Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp

September 23rd, 2018

Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp talk about Farm Aid and why it matters

September 23rd, 2018

“What the heck is the deal with Texans boycotting Willie Nelson?”

September 23rd, 2018
by:  David Courtney

Q: What the heck is the deal with this boycott of Willie Nelson thing I’ve been seeing pop up on my social media accounts recently? Did I miss something?

Colt Johnston, Los Angeles, California

A: Well, hello there! My, it’s been a long, long time. How are you doing? The Texanist hopes you’re doing fine. How’s your new love—

Whoa! Please excuse the Texanist—he was lost in song for a moment there. And what a song! The Texanist bets he’s listened to that one a million times, and it still gives him goosebumps.

So, okay, you asked the Texanist a question, didn’t you? Right—Willie Nelson, social media, boycotts. Got it. OK, here’s the deal: the topic at the heart of your query, the news stories about all those upset Willie fans calling for people to stop listening to his music, is a great big load, nothing more than another minor road rage event on a desolate shoulder of the information superhighway.

Rolling Stone, the Washington Post, Fox News, HuffPost, People, and a slew of other outlets reported on the supposed kerfuffle. But beneath the eye-grabbing headlines— “Willie Nelson Fans Furious Over Announcement That He’ll Headline a Rally for a Dem Candidate,” “Willie Nelson is Playing a Political Concert for Beto O’Rourke. Some Fans Are Abandoning Him”—virtually all of the articles noted that the surprising thing about the reaction was that there was a reaction at all, which is exactly what surprised the Texanist and caused this thing to get stuck in his craw.

All Willie fans know that he’s been a first-rate country act since way back in the 1950s, having written and recorded enduring classic upon enduring classic; and that he bucked the Nashville system and moved to Austin where he grew his beard and hair and started cavorting with the hippies; and that he pioneered the “outlaw” movement in country music; and that he’s had ups and downs in his personal life; and that he’s created a sound and persona totally unto himself, including but not limited to having duetted with the likes of Ray Charles, Julio Iglesias, and Snoop Dogg, among many others, and even going so far as to release a reggae album; and that through the years he’s become known as an avid partaker in the martial arts, golf, jogging, and marijuana. And these same fans, even the most casual among them, would surely also be well aware that Willie is known for his activism and occasional stance taking.

What Willie fan, after all, isn’t familiar with his advocacy for American farmers, via his 1985 founding of Farm Aid; his boosterism of alternative fuels, via Willie Nelson Biodiesel; his support for LGBTQ rights, via the release of “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other”; his endorsement of the legalization of marijuana, via his very public usage; and his allegiance to America, via his championing of liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And what Willie fan worth their salt doesn’t also know that he’s openly backed numerous politicos, D’s, R’s, and I’s, going all the way back to his support for Tex Ritter, the Murvaul-born country singer and actor who fell short in his 1970 Tennessee Republican Primary bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Al Gore, Sr? Everybody know this, fans and non-fans (if there even is such a thing) alike.

Just as most of the news reports reported, a person who knows all this would have to be crazy—crazy for feeling so outraged, crazy for feeling the least bit surprised by such an announcement. The Texanist was left completely flummoxed by the whole mystifying thing. What the disparagers were thinking, he does not know.

A few of the stories, such as a fine one penned by the Texanist’s colleague Dan Solomon for the Texas Monthly website, used the incident to comment on the current hyper-polarized state of our public discourse, which does at times resemble a broken-down heap on the aforementioned shoulder of the information superhighway. The Texanist, though, a glass half full type, has managed to find a glimmer of hope amidst the wreckage. The way the Texanist sees it, the country’s opposing sides seem to have finally, at long last, sunk all the way down and hit the rockiest of rock bottoms when it comes to the quality of our political dialogue. There simply is no level lower than the one at which folks see fit to besmirch Willie Nelson for being Willie Nelson. The Texanist welcomes the return of simple civility, mutual respect, and general level-headedness that will surely follow, preferably while that classic 1974 Willie album, Phases and Stages, a real fan favorite, plays in the background. Boy, that is a good ‘un.

For his part, Willie responded to the hubbub in the Williest of ways, with aplomb and his signature wry humor. “I don’t care—they’re entitled to their opinions and I’m entitled to mine,” he told the hosts of the television talk show The View. “I love flak. We’re not happy ’til they’re not happy.” The Twitter account for his cannabis company, Willie’s Reserve, responded to calls for the burning of Willie’s records by tweeting, “If you’re going to burn something, burn Willie’s Reserve.” And later in the week, Willie, similarly unfazed, brushed off the dustup on an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert before promoting this year’s Farm Aid Concert, Willie’s Reserve, and his brand new and aptly titled album, My Way.

Thanks for the letter, Mr. Johnston. Now, in the words of that great American icon of iconoclasm, let’s pretend it never happened and erase it from our minds. Onward and Upward!

Willie Nelson, “Vote ’em out”

September 23rd, 2018

photo:  Taylor Hill
by:  Thom Duffy

“We want to try to help farmers if we can,” says Nelson. “And 33 years later, we’re still trying to help.”

Willie Nelson is pissed off.

For more than three decades, Nelson has fought for the survival of America’s family farmers, staging the first Farm Aid benefit concert in 1985 with John Mellencamp and Neil Young, and later welcoming Dave Matthews to the cause.

Backstage at the 33rd annual Farm Aid benefit concert at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford Saturday (Sept 22), aboard his tour bus, Nelson held a coffee mug and evenly described his anger with the economic and political reasons why the plight of family farmers is “just as bad today as it was 33 years ago — if not worse.”

Farm Aid’s four headliners were joined Saturday by one of the most impressive lineups to play the benefit in years: Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Jamey Johnson, Ian Mellencamp and Particle Kid — a bill that led this year’s event to sell out in four hours when the show was announced in June.

The Hartford show took place 33 years to the day that the first Farm Aid was staged in Champaign, Ill., on Sept. 22, 1985.

“You would think, after that many years, something would be done and their problems would be solved or at least an attempt [made] to solve them,” Nelson says, “and I haven’t seen anything to suggest that. Because there are a lot of people who don’t care, you know?  A lot of people are making a lot of money and big corporations could care less about the small family farmer. In fact, the sooner they get rid of them happier they’ll be.”

Farmers this year are taking the brunt of multiple policies of the Trump administration. A trade war with China has prompted that nation to announce a retaliatory 25 percent tariff on U.S. exports, including soy, corn, wheat, cotton, beef, pork and more. New immigration policies threaten the ability of farmers to find workers to harvest their crops. And federal inaction on climate change comes in the face of increasingly frequent, intense storms and hurricanes.

Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid Stages Its Most Crucial Benefit Concert in a Generation

For family farmers, the current presidency has “been rather disastrous,” says Nelson.

“Washington is not doing one damn thing to help the small family farmer. In fact, they’re doing everything they can to put him out of business; that’s their objective. And so we have a fight on our hands,” says the singer, adding a characteristically zen-like coda to his comments: “And that’s cool.”

Nelson’s commitment to Farm Aid is hands-on. The organization reported that calls came in to its crisis hotline in recent days from dairy farmers in crisis in three different states. For emergency grants, delivered via allied organizations, Nelson signs the checks. “Every one,” he says.  As artists prepared to perform in Hartford, three checks went out with Connecticut postmarks.

Nelson, of course, also continues a thriving recording and touring career. Many of the artists on the Farm Aid bill have been part of Nelson’s summer Outlaw Music Festival Tour.  And on Sept. 7, just five months after Nelson’s previous album Last Man Standing, he released My Way, interpreting the songs first recorded by his friend Frank Sinatra.

Many artists embrace a cause, stage a benefit — then move on.

“I guess it would be easier, you know,” says Nelson. “But that’s not what we want to do. That’s not what we’re about. We want to try to help if we can. And 33 years later, we’re still trying to help. We’re trying to convince everybody that it’s important that they shop farm-to-market, that they help their local farmers and and people are getting more and more educated in that respect.”

At a press conference that preceded the day’s performances, Farm Aid organizers introduced Connecticut farmers who described their hardships. But they also presented the stories of young activists who share Farm Aid’s goal of creating a sustainable food system.

At the press conference, Mellencamp angrily denounced the influence of large corporations on how America’s food is grown and called for a political response. “We’ve got to get the right people representing us and have your voices heard, not corporate America’s voices heard,” he said. “You’ve got to get out and vote.”

Nelson agrees. “Yeah, you’ve got to vote,” he says. “If you care, you’ve got to vote.”

“In fact,” Nelson says, describing a recent recording session with sons Lukas and Micah, “I’ve got a new song me and the boys [will] put out, called `Vote `Em Out.’”

“If you don’t like who’s in there, vote `em out
That’s what election day is all about
And the biggest gun we’ve got is called the ballot box
So if you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out.”

“I’m finishing it up in a couple of days,” says Nelson. “So it’ll be out pretty quick.”

Willie Nelson & Family, Farm Aid 2018

September 23rd, 2018

photo:  Alice Kaufmann

Farm Aid Board Members

September 23rd, 2018

Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp

Mickey Raphael at Farm Aid 2018

September 23rd, 2018

Thanks, Jeff Whitson, for this picture of Mickey performing with Chris Stapleton at Farm Aid yesterday.

September 23rd, 2018

Watch Farm Aid 2018 Live from Hartford on YouTube

September 22nd, 2018

Farm Aid 2018 Lineup

September 22nd, 2018

12:40 Wisdom Indian Dancers

12:42 Ian Mellencamp

12:59 Particle Kid

1:24 Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

2:01 Margo Price

2:46 Jamey Johnson

3:31 Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

4:18 Kacey Musgraves

5:13 Sturgill Simpson

6:08 Chris Stapleton

7:03 Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds

8:03 John Mellencamp

9:03 Neil Young & Promise of the Real

10:03 Willie Nelson & Family

Schedule subject to change

September 22nd, 2018

Willie Nelson: Fighting for Farmers, (Bio) Fuel, and Hemp,

September 22nd, 2018
by: Melanie Moore

Driving into Willie Nelson’s ranch, off Highway 71 northwest of Austin, is like driving onto a movie set. Actually, it is a movie set; it’s been used in commercials, films, and TV spots. Cars leave dusty clouds behind as they wind around dirt roads right into the middle of an Old West town, a “main street” complete with saloon, church, and other buildings as well as corrals of horses. Inside the saloon, the wooden floorboards are uneven in places—they probably make a cool cowboy noise with your steps if you wear boots. But running shoes navigate the terrain just as well, which is what Willie Nelson had on, with workout shorts and a tee shirt, as he and his wife, Annie, welcomed guests into the saloon. A bar runs along one side, with a large flat-screen TV at the opposite end where FOX news was on but muted. The walls are decorated with old posters and photos, many signed by the legends in the photos with Nelson. In addition to a pool table, there is a round poker table, with chips and cards at the ready. Comfortable swivel chairs—on wheels that can get stuck in the uneven floorboards—surround the table. Nelson leans back in one and Annie perches on a bar stool behind him.

A few weeks prior to visiting with Austin Fit Magazine, Nelson had had to leave Colorado where he was on tour.

“Oh [my health is] all right,” he said. “I smoked cigarettes. I drank quite a bit. Emphysema.”

“You go up to altitude,” Annie interjected.

“And I woke up and I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “But other than that I’m in pretty good shape.” At 79, Nelson is a second degree black belt in tae kwon do.

“I ran to stay in shape,” he said. “You remember Charles Atlas and dynamic tension; it’s what Bruce Lee does. So I noticed a comparison between mental, physical, spiritual evolution. I think martial arts are one of the best things a person can get into. Back in Nashville, I got into kung fu; kicking and gauging. We used to go out and sign up kids to take kung fu lessons. It was a heck of a lot of fun.”

In terms of diet, the Nelsons “eat clean” and get their food from local farmers’ markets when they are on the road.

“I eat six times a day,” he said. He eats bacon, eggs, and potatoes.

“Look, it actually works,” Annie said. “It matters that it’s clean.” She makes a point to know the source of the foods they eat, rather than just buying whatever is in a store.

“The food that turns into energy,” Nelson said. “I grew up on eggs and potatoes. I can get by on [that]. If there’s some greens out there, that’s good. But that’s what I eat. Biscuits and gravy if you’ve got it.”

“For 25 years, Farm Aid has been [helping local farmers],” said Nelson, wasting no time diving into the subject he and his wife are passionate about. “And we’re still losing a lot of farms. At one time we had eight million family farmers; now we’ve got less than a half a million.” Nelson said the change is mostly in the Farm Belt, an area generally defined as the Midwest and central plains of the United States.

The family farmers are struggling because of the drought and because of the competition from what Annie Nelson termed “industrial ag.”

“Look at your food in the morning for breakfast,” Nelson said. “Most everything you’re eating came from 1,500 miles away when it could have been grown right over there. Get a local farmer to grow your bacon and eggs and your chickens, whatever you need in your garden. But trucking it 1,500 miles does a lot of damage to the environment and the price and everything. So sustainable, local agriculture is what Annie’s involved in a lot, and us too.”

“The U.S. is the only place that doesn’t have some sort of ban on GMO or control over GMO or labeling on GMO,” Annie said. (GMO is the acronym for genetically modified organism). “They have a terminator seed…they’ve patented something that’s a plant,” she said, referring to Monsanto, the herbicide and seed conglomerate.

“A farmer can’t keep his seeds from this year and use them again next year like he used to,” Nelson said. In addition to the genetically modified seeds which the company prohibits customers from saving from year to year, Monsanto, an American multinational agricultural biotechnology company, also makes pesticides which, according to Nelson, farmers are required to use.

“If I’m a farmer and I go to the bank and I want to borrow some money to do my crop next year, they’ll say, ‘Well, okay, but you’ve got to put so much pesticide, so much chemical, so much fertilizer on each acre or we’re not going to loan you the money. That way we know you’re going to get enough yield to pay us back.’”

“It’s really wrong,” Annie said, referring to Monsanto’s seed patent protection practices. She referenced the famous case of Percy Schmeiser v Monsanto which has become the iconic story of an agricultural David versus Goliath. Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer, was sued by Monsanto for having used their seeds without paying for them. Schmeiser held that the seeds had blown over from another farm; he had always been an organic farmer and not only didn’t use GMO seeds, he didn’t want them contaminating his fields. Over a decade later, after an appellate court battle, instead of paying Monsanto the $400,000 they said he owed, Monsanto paid him $660, which was the cost of removing Monsanto’s “Roundup ready” canola oil seeds from his land.

On its website, Monsanto has a page titled “Why Does Monsanto Sue Farmers who Save Seeds?” The company states that, “Since 1997, we have only filed suit against farmers 145 times in the United States.” The statement points out that Monsanto has patented seeds and “spends more than $2.6 million per day in research and development.” The statement continues with tautological explanations of the link between a company’s patents and revenue.

Monsanto has developed a seed that is resistant to Roundup, a powerful herbicide also sold by Monsanto. According to a June 2003 article in Scientific American, “Until now, most health studies have focused on the safety of glyphosate [the active ingredient in Roundup], rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup. But in the new study, scientists found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.“

“It went from weaponry to the food we eat,” said Ronda Rutledge, Executive Director of the Sustainable Food Center in Austin. Rutledge was commenting on Monsanto, a maker of Agent Orange, which, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, is “a blend of tactical herbicides the U.S. military sprayed from 1962 to 1971 during Operation Ranch Hand in the Vietnam War to remove trees and dense tropical foliage that provided enemy cover.”

“The manufacturing companies [making Agent Orange] included Diamond Shamrock Corporation, Dow Chemical Company, Hercules, Inc., T-H Agricultural & Nutrition Company, Thompson Chemicals Corporation, Uniroyal Inc. and Monsanto Company, which at the time was a chemical manufacturer. Monsanto manufactured Agent Orange from 1965 to 1969,” according to Monsanto’s website.

The big issue, and the focus of worldwide “Occupy Monsanto” events in September 2012, is about labeling GMO foods. Proposition 37 (read the text at is on the November 6 ballot in California and is being watched very closely by farmers, grocers, and consumers around the country because, as Rutledge said, “Many times, as California goes, so goes the country.” Her question, and the question of many organic and sustainable farm advocates and health-conscious consumers is, “If [GMO foods] aren’t bad, then why not tell us what’s in [them]?”

The battle heated up over the summer with Monsanto spending $4.2 million to defeat California’s Proposition 37, according to Truthout, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to providing independent news and commentary on a daily basis.” The Sacramento Bee newspaper characterized the situation as “a battle between organic farmers and food manufacturers on one side and, on the other, conventional grocery store brands and the biotech companies that make some of their ingredients.” The paper listed parent companies for Cheerios, Chef Boyardee, Nestle, Coke, and Pepsi, as well as Monsanto, DuPont, and Bayer that make pesticides and genetically modified seeds as those on the “no” side that had raised $32.5 million. On the organic side, the paper listed manufacturers including Lundberg’s, Nature’s Path, Clif Bar, and Amy’s Kitchen who have raised $4.3 million in support of the proposition. Whole Foods endorsed the proposition, but most grocery stores are opposed. It is a heated topic.

“I’m not willing to kill my child,” said Annie. “It’s not just low energy [food], it’s toxic. I need to know [what’s in the food I feed my family]. It’s still not okay. It seems to be more expensive [to buy organic produce]. … As long as it’s poor people, there will be poor kids dying. We need to force [GMO producers] to label the fruit,” Annie said. “When you educate people, they don’t mind spots on their [organic] food. Why would you give your kid a piece of fruit that even a bug wouldn’t want to eat?”

In addition to their opposition of GMOs and “industrial ag,” the Nelsons are also active in supporting alternatives to petroleum and petrochemical-based products. Their buses and trucks run on biodiesel.

“The diesel engine was invented to run on peanut oil,” Annie explained. “It was modified to be able to use petroleum-based diesel fuel.” They get their biodesel from a variety of sources. “We get it from restaurants,” she said. “We haul it back to the plant.” The oil used in fryers at restaurants can be used for biodiesel fuel rather than being thrown out after use. “That oil would end up in landfills or animals.”

“There’s no need to go around starting wars for oil,” Nelson said.

Nelson has formed Willie Nelson Biodiesel Company to distribute his own blend of biodiesel fuel called BioWillie. It’s available at various locations in Texas and along the Eastern Seaboard.

“We’re talking about doing something on the Lincoln highway, 180, as you move from San Francisco to New York,” he said. “The government wants to make that a biodiesel highway. It’s the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway and they’re trying to do the whole highway with alternative fuel, which is a great idea. And build plants along the way. They have the government supporting that so we’re going to do a tour there. We’re going to get Neil Young to start it out in San Francisco and bring it on. And we’ll get Jimmy Johnson or Luke [Bryan] somewhere along the way. Vegas along the way. We’ll do a final one in either New York or Washington and promote the whole thing with biodiesel.”

“The Obama administration facilitated it,” Annie said. “This has been a while, so now from Times Square to Lincoln Park in San Fancisco you can get a minimum of B20 on a trip.”

“We’re trying to coordinate it with my 80th birthday,” Nelson said, “which is April 30 next year. Somewhere along the way we’ll do a birthday bash, try to tie it all together.

Nelson is known for his support of hemp, and he notes that drafts of the Declaration of Independence were likely written on hemp. Much of the paper used in the 18th century was made of hemp, as well as sails, rope, and many other products.

“Anything that used to be made of hemp is now made out of chemicals,” he said. “There’s a huge push and drive in the States to bring back hemp. You can buy the material. You can bring the seed. There’s a huge market we’re not getting any money from, and it’s not just the drug. There’s a lot more involved.”

In addition to his music and activism, Willie Nelson has written a new memoir which will hit shelves November 13, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, from William Morris Publishers.

What would Willie like Austin Fit Magazine readers to know? “Family farmers kick ass. Find your farmer, not sharecroppers that grow for Monsanto.”