Archive for October, 2014
Micah Nelson: When It Comes to Willie Nelson’s Youngest Son, expect the unexpected
by Steve Uhler
Micah Nelson has been screwing with everyone’s expectations since before he was even born.
His dad originally wanted to name him Jake — a “cowboy name” — but the still-gestating prodigy had other ideas. “Apparently, when my mother was pregnant with me, she had a dream in which I came to her and said, “Hey, listen. I’m gonna be showing up soon, so I want to let you know ahead of time. My name is Micah. You can call me whatever you want, but that’s my name. Micah. OK, great — see you soon.” Then she woke up and turned to my dad and said, ‘Hey, uh… so his name is Micah, apparently.”
“That wasn’t enough convincing, however. “They settled on Jacob, Jake for short,” he continues. “But then I showed up and said my name is Micah. Only doctors and cops and people at the DMV call me Jacob.”
Anyone expecting Willie Nelson’s youngest son to reflect the spitting image of his iconic father is likely to be simultaneously disappointed and amazed. Flying in the face of preconceptions — ore -re-anything — is a lifelong motif for the 24-year-old musician. his music is as similar to his dad’s as John Cage is to Johnny Cash. Same canvas, wildly different colors. “Micah has never followed the herd in anything he odes,” says his older brother, Lukas. “To follow any formula would limit him, which he knows. He’s as unique as he is creative.”
Even as a toddler, Nelson was messing with people’s heads. “I started playing harmonica in my dad’s band when I was about three,” he recalls. “I thought I was just getting harmonica lessons. I was oblivious to the thousands of people watching. My Aunt Robyn asked me if I was nervous in front of all those people? I said, “If I don’t see them, they can’t see me.’ Eventually I got pretty decent at the harmonica, and my dad would throw me the nod to take a solo or two.”
Like his iconoclastic father, Nelson does things his own way — and he does a lot of things. In addition to being a full-time musician, both with his band, Insects vs Robots, and as a solo artist, he’s an accomplished painter, photographer, filmmaker and animator. Imagine H.R. Giger channeling John Audobon at a seance with David Lynch, and you’ll get some idea of Nelson’s vision.
As a musician, he eschews the formulaic and polished in favor of the ragged, unformed and spontaneous. As such a conduit as a creator, Nelson conjures “found sounds” into complex musical works of astonishing depth, imagery and surprising humor. An intuitive sonic forager, he finds inspiration in serendipitous places: the rhythm drip of a leaky faucet, the arthritic, groan of an old rocking chair, the distant howl of hungry coyotes in the night. “When I was in high school, every morning on Maui I’d wake up to the most psychedelic bird calls right outside my window,” he recalls. “the weirdest riffs. A human couldn’t write those melodies. I had a growing suspicion that all birds were just musical robots flying around with little tape decks built into them with old warped tapes that would loop the strangest, tweekiest sounds.”
So do inanimate objects, “I know a guy named Lewellyn with an old creaky rusty cat,” he continues. “Every time he opens his door it sings the strangest creaky melodies. I”ve ripped his car’s riffs off countless times. Sometimes I see music as this mysterious forest to be explored. Or like archeaology. You never know what treasures and artifacts you might find, but you can’t know unless you start digging.”
Nelson meticulously builds layers of tracks, weaving a tapestry of songs that are often otherworldly. Anyone expecting echoes of his dad’s distinctive voice and mainstream op sensibilities will find Nelson’s oeuvre disorienting. It’s a beguiling mash-up of traditional folk, psychedelia and world beat, peppered with guileless vocals, dissonant chordings and shifting time signatures. It’s musical Chaos Theory.
“A lot of popular music is so safe, so predictable, like it was processed in a factory,” he explains. “You can literally go in and buy it at Target next to the Tupperware. Not that there’s anything wrong with that .. except that a lot of it tends to sound like Tupperware. Some folks want ot make a pop hit that sells deodorant and plays every five minutes at Walgreens and gets them a Super Bowl halftime show. I tend to get bored with that intention. It spooks my horse.” Perhaps the closest he’s ever come to a traditional love song is “Mosquito,” his bizarre ode to the pesky insect.
PURCHASE THE MAGAZINE AND SEE ALL THE PHOTOS HERE:
On November 10, 2006, the Ashley Judd movie “Come Early Morning” debuts in theaters. The soundtrack features Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Eddy Raven, Don Gibson, Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, Jim Chesnut, Emmylou Harris and Billy Joe Shaver.
|1.||Killing the Blues – The Malcolm Holcombe Group|
|2.||End of the Wine – Misty Morgan/Jack Blanchard|
|3.||Going to See Cal|
|4.||The Way I Am – Merle Haggard|
|5.||Don’t Knock – Taylor Grocery Band|
|6.||An Invitation and a Kiss|
|7.||Silver Wings – Merle Haggard|
|8.||Frog Leg Champ|
|9.||I Got Mexico – Eddy Raven|
|11.||Oh Lonesome Me – Don Gibson|
|12.||Movin’ Out, Movin’ Up and Movin’ On – Troy Cook Jr./The Long Haul Band|
|13.||Argument in the Parking Lot|
|14.||I’m Going Nowhere – Troy Cook Jr./The Long Haul Band|
|15.||What’s Done Is Done – Jeannie Max Lane|
|16.||Owen Is Leaving|
|17.||Jesus on the Main Line – Taylor Grocery Band|
|19.||Get Back to Loving Me – Jim Chestnut|
|20.||Daddy and Daughter|
|21.||Leavin’ Ain’t the Only Way to Go – Eric James Jochmans|
|22.||Somebody Pick Up My Pieces – Willie Nelson/Emmylou Harris|
|23.||Lucy is Free|
|24.||Old Chuck of Coal – Billy Joe Shaver|
|25.||It Anybody Asks You (Callin’) – Shannon Boshears|
“The Keystone XL pipeline is a large step in the wrong direction for the health of Earth,” Neil Young said at the Harvest the Hope concert. “America must lead the world again and stop this pipeline.”
The Harvest the Hope performance video for “Who’s Gonna Stand Up” concludes with a call for citizens who give a damn about protecting our land and water to take action and vote on Election Day, Nov. 4.
Voters in Nebraska can find out which candidates oppose Keystone XL and will fight to protect land and water in the New Energy Voter Guide, available here.
Many thanks again to Neil for once again lending his voice to the fight to protect Mother Earth, and to Harvest the Hope performers Willie Nelson, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Frank Waln, and the Stopping the Pipeline Rocks All-Stars.
You can honor Neil’s commitment by helping spread this video far and wide, and voting on Election Day!
Watch the “Pipeline Fighter” version of Neil Young’s “Who’s Gonna Stand Up?”
Let’s prove the naysayers wrong, and get out and vote for New Energy on Nov. 4.
Stand Up. Protect Land and Water. Vote.
Thanks for all you do.
Jane Kleeb and the Bold Nebraska team
P.S. Chip in $10 to buy some last-minute ads to promote the video before Election Day.
Thanks in part to the influence of Appalachian folk, hillbilly and Western swing, country music has always addressed some pretty dark subject matter. Sure, there are songs about cheating, fighting and stealing, but it’s those even darker tunes about killin’ that are the guiltiest of pleasures. They’re also among the most popular — trying to count the number of times murder is alluded to in country’s storied history is, like James Joyce said of eternity, akin to moving a beach one grain of sand at a time.
To be a bona fide country murder tale, the song must have a homicide (or two), a narrative and, of course, possess that distinctive country sound. Ergo, “Murder Was the Case” wouldn’t qualify. Likewise, simply mentioning the capital offense does not a murder ballad make — there needs to be action. Here then are 10 country murder songs that best sum up the sub-genre.
The Red-Headed Stranger, by Willie Nelson
This entire album of the same name is one long murder ballad, telling the tale of the red-headed stranger who may be a cold-blooded killer, but is also somewhat of an American treasure. Chalk that up to the universal compassion for lost love, animals and Willie Nelson’s voice. Plus, when listening to this track alone, we don’t know that he actually killed his wife, as revealed in another song on the album, “Blue Rock Montana.” “Red Headed Stranger” itself resolves the penalty for the crime, and the widower is simply protecting his deceased wife’s horse. Shame on the “yellow haired lady” for trying to steal that bay!
See all the videos, read more:
he Unforgiven & Willie Nelson perform “Amazing Grace” live at the Farm Aid concert in Austin, Texas on July 4, 1986. Farm Aid was started by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985 to keep family farmers on the land and has worked since then to make sure everyone has access to good food from family farmers. Dave Matthews joined Farm Aid’s board of directors in 2001.
For more information about Farm Aid, visit: http://farmaid.org/youtube
Farm Aid’s performances are donated by the artists in order to raise funds and raise awareness for family farmers. They’ve raised their voices to help — what can you do?
On October 29, 2009, Willie Nelson and Family performed in Winchester, West Virginia, at the official grand opening of the Patsy Cline Theater. Patsy’s husband and daughter attended the festivities.
Thanks again to Christian Schweiger, co-producer of the event, for sharing with me about the show, and sending me one of the programs and post cards from the
Local singers opened the show for Willie Nelson and his band, and they got the shirts to prove it.
Photo by: Rick Foster
“I recorded a song called “I Fall to Pieces,” and I was in a car wreck. Now I’m worried because I have a brand-new record, and it’s called “Crazy”!”
Thanks to Christian Schweiger, Schweiger/Dearing Production, for sharing artwork for the dedication of the Patsy Cline Theater in Winchester, VA in 2009.
It’s nice to get to see Bobbie Nelson play piano! Thanks to whoever shot this video. If you sit in the audiencem, we never get to see Bobbie, until Willie asks her to stand up after her solo. And at end of show, she graciously waves and gives her fans attention.