Archive for the ‘Albums’ Category

‘Missing ole’ Johnny Cash’ — Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard

Friday, May 22nd, 2015


Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, “Missing ole’ Johnny Cash) from new album

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard have recorded another long-awaited album, and it comes out early next month! You can wait and purchase your copy at your favorite independent record store, like I am going to do, or you can pre-order it from Amazon, too.


new album out in June!

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard
Django and Jimmie

  1. 1. Django and Jimmie – written by Jimmy Melton and Jeff Prince
  2. 2. It’s All Going To Pot – written by Buddy Cannon, Jamey Johnson and Larry Shell
  3. 3. Unfair Weather Friend – written by Marla Cannon-Goodman and Ward Davis
  4. 4. Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash – written by Merle Haggard
  5. 5. Live This Long – written by Shawn Camp and Marv Green
  6. 6. Alice In Hulaland – written by Willie Nelson and Buddy Cannon
  7. 7. Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – written by Bob Dylan
  8. 8. Family Bible – written by Walter M. Breeland, Paul F. Buskirk, and Claude Gray
  9. 9. It’s Only Money – written by Willie Nelson and Buddy Cannon
  10. 10. Swinging Doors – written by Merle Haggard
  11. 11. Where Dreams Come To Die – written by Willie Nelson and Buddy Cannon
  12. 12. Somewhere Between – written by Merle Haggard
  13. 13. Driving The Herd – written by Willie Nelson and Buddy Cannon
  14. 14. The Only Man Wilder Than Me – written by Merle Haggard

Willie Nelson, Hank Cochran, “Ain’t Life Hell”

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Willie Nelson’s beautiful hair

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015


Music legend Willie Nelson waves as he arrives on a flight in Maui, Hawaii on June 26, 2014.  His new album ‘Band Of Brothers’ hit number 1 on the Billboard Country Chart.

Willie Nelson’s, “Spirit”

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

By Chris Morris

Willie Nelson’s made over 100 albums, but it’s the quiet, contemplative, achingly beautiful Spirit that brings us to tears every time.

The concept of “a special Willie Nelson album” may be hard for many to get a handle on. Few musicians have been as prolific: The American musical icon has to date released 80 solo studio albums and more than two dozen collaborative sets, and has made countless guest appearances on others’ records. He has long been compulsive in the studio; he owns a couple of studios, in fact, and is entitled to use them as he sees fit.

One of three records Willie released in a 12-month period in 1995-96, Spirit is one of his very greatest—a special album in every way. But it managed to elude the attention of all but the most hardcore Nelson enthusiasts.

That’s a pity, for that beautiful, indelible, and unjustly obscure release surely deserved the success of such popular Nelson opuses as Red Headed Stranger, Stardust, and Always on My Mind; it’s as personal and as profoundly expressed as his Phases and Stages, The Troublemaker, and To Lefty From Willie, and as different from those albums as they are from one another. Spare and operating at an emotional high pitch, Spirit is a perfect blend of ardent songwriting and musical virtuosity, distinguished by the resonant interplay of a gifted and durable brother-and-sister act.

The majority of Spirit is an extended conversation between two distinctive instrumental voices. Willie’s piano-playing sister Bobbie Nelson got her start as a musician barnstorming across Texas with traveling evangelists, and her heavily chorded work on the album is straight out of church. (Appropriately, Willie and Bobbie released a duet album of gospel songs, Farther Along, earlier this year; a second collaborative effort, December Day, is due next month.)

Bobbie’s playing provides a forceful yet lyrical underpinning for Willie’s jazz-inflected work, performed on his battered Martin N-20 classical guitar “Trigge

Bobbie’s playing provides a forceful yet lyrical underpinning for Willie’s jazz-inflected work, performed on his battered Martin N-20 classical guitar “Trigger.” Seldom before or since has he played with such a depth of feeling; he moves effortlessly from border music-styled instrumentals to the swinging lilt of his principal influence, gypsy jazzman Django Reinhardt. (Longtime band mate Jody Payne’s rhythm guitar work is so laid-back it can scarcely be detected in the mix.) Guest Johnny Gimble, formerly the fiddle ace in Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, plays Stephane Grappelli to Willie’s Django, contributing his own subdued flights of fancy on many of the tracks.

The musicians came to the off-the-cuff one-day Spirit session at Nelson’s Pedernales Studio armed with a brace of magnificent new Nelson compositions. The best of them—the ballads “She Is Gone,” “Your Memory Won’t Die in My Grave,” “I’m Not Trying to Forget You”—are powerfully affecting post mortems of an old love affair, in the grand manner of Nelson’s unforgettable 1974 song cycle about divorce, Phases and Stages. Even the album’s songs of romantic rebirth—“I’m Waiting Forever,” “I Guess I’ve Come to Live Here in Your Eyes,” “It’s a Dream Come True”—are steeped in melancholy. And two highly personalized hymns, “Too Sick to Pray” and “I Thought About You, Lord,” are as darkly pensive as the rest. Nelson sings them all with the assurance and straightforward honesty that have always characterized his work.

Willie Nelson was making adventurous music in the late ’90s, but Spirit bears comparison to such highly lauded contemporaneous albums as Johnny Cash’s celebrated American sessions with producer Rick Rubin.

Yes, it really is that special.


Willie Nelson and Paula Nelson, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”

Friday, May 8th, 2015

This and many other beautiful duets are on Willie’s, “To All the Girls” album.


To All the Girls (Legacy)

1.Dolly Parton – From Here To The Moon And Back
2.Miranda Lambert – She Was No Good For Me
3.Secret Sisters – It Won’t Be Very Long
4.Rosanne Cash – Please Don’t Tell Me
5.Sheryl Crow – Far Away Places
6.Wynonna Judd – Bloody Mary Morning
7.Carrie Underwood – Always On My Mind
8.Loretta Lynn – Somewhere Between
9.Alison Krauss – No Mas Amor
10.Melonie Cannon – Back To Earth
11.Mavis Staples – Grandma’s Hands
12.Norah Jones – Walkin’
13.Shelby Lynne – Til The End Of The World
14.Lily Meola – Will You Remember Mine
15.Emmylou Harris – Dry Lightning
16.Brandi Carlile – Making Believe
17.Paula Nelson – Have You Ever Seen The Rain
18.Tina Rose – After The Fire Is Gone

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Django and Jimmie

Friday, May 8th, 2015


new album out in June!

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard
Django and Jimmie

  1. 1. Django and Jimmie – written by Jimmy Melton and Jeff Prince
  2. 2. It’s All Going To Pot – written by Buddy Cannon, Jamey Johnson and Larry Shell
  3. 3. Unfair Weather Friend – written by Marla Cannon-Goodman and Ward Davis
  4. 4. Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash – written by Merle Haggard
  5. 5. Live This Long – written by Shawn Camp and Marv Green
  6. 6. Alice In Hulaland – written by Willie Nelson and Buddy Cannon
  7. 7. Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – written by Bob Dylan
  8. 8. Family Bible – written by Walter M. Breeland, Paul F. Buskirk, and Claude Gray
  9. 9. It’s Only Money – written by Willie Nelson and Buddy Cannon
  10. 10. Swinging Doors – written by Merle Haggard
  11. 11. Where Dreams Come To Die – written by Willie Nelson and Buddy Cannon
  12. 12. Somewhere Between – written by Merle Haggard
  13. 13. Driving The Herd – written by Willie Nelson and Buddy Cannon
  14. 14. The Only Man Wilder Than Me – written by Merle Haggard

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, after a long day in the studio

Thursday, May 7th, 2015
Willie Nelson's photo.

New album out in June!

Willie Nelson, “Sunday Morning Coming Down”

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Raelyn Nelson talks about new single, new video, and asking Papa Willie for Advice

Monday, May 4th, 2015


The Raelyn Nelson Band from Nashville released a new single earlier this month, “Brother”, and the song has been exciting  everyone who hears it.  The band’s self-made accompanying music video has been burning up the internet.  Impossible to watch it just once — you just have to hit re-play.

The song’s got a familiar country theme about a cheating heart,  a somebody done somebody wrong song.  But the lively hip young RNB twists up the plot  when the girl calls her brother and tells him about the cheating boyfriend.  And the band’s creative video takes you along on the chase as the boyfriend is on the run from the brother.  I said it was exciting!

The RNB is made up of Raelyn Nelson, Jonathan Bright [JB], Preachie Rutherford and Paulie Simmons, from Nashville.   Last year they released their self-titled debut album, a collection of original material written by the band.  The album includes the sweetest duet with Raelyn and her grandfather, “The Moon Song”.    The single, “Brother”,  and their debut album is available for purchase at the band’s website store.

Raelyn kindly gave me some time on the phone last week from her home in Nashville to talk about the new song, “Brother”, the video, and life in general.

LL:  I’m really enjoying your new song, “Brother”.  It’s so good.  What’s the story behind that song?

RN:  Well, [laughs] the story is kind of boring.  I was watching a show on television where this girl’s boyfriend was cheating on her.  And so she called her older brothers and told them about it.  I watched that, and I thought, “Well, that could be fun.”  I couldn’t think of any song written about someone calling their big brother when their significant other cheats on them.   I had some lyrics and a melody I’d been working on and once I saw that TV show, I started writing it down and putting it all together.   Then I got with JB [Jonathan Bright] to finish it and he always rocks it up for me.

LL:  Your music video for “Brother” is so entertaining. I can’t stop watching it.   Is it true, your band made the whole thing yourself?

RN:  Yes, we did everything ourselves.  It grew from us just sitting around one day and throwing out ideas.  JB had just got a Go-Pro (small, mountable video camera), so we knew we wanted to use that for a project.  But we didn’t know who we wanted the person to be – should we film it from the perspective of the boyfriend or the brother?”  And the scenes of the band performing are from our little studio, our regular band space.  Believe it or not, we did that take over thirty times, to get it right, to get the timing right.  And then JB was running around with the Go-Pro, playing the video on his phone for the FaceTime part.”

LL:  Did you expect the video to be so good?  Or to be so popular?

RN:  It was so cool and fun working on it together.  When we were making it we felt like it was something special.  We were thinking, “If this comes out the way it is in our brains, if this video comes out like that, it will be awesome.  It was so exciting watching it come together.  People say that the music video world is really going down and losing importance, but on the internet, it’s huge.  If you have a really good song, and a good idea, a video can go viral.

And I got to use my young-ins in the video. The boys are twins, so they were the brothers.  One of them runs up and swings the bat, and the other one stands with the bat at the end.  My daughter was riding the scooter in the video.  I home school them, and so one day it was like, “Okay youngins, today we’re having acting class.”  It was great.

LL:  You and Jonathan Bright have a very creative relationship.  How did you meet him and your other band mates?

RN:  I was so lucky to meet JB.  We met originally through a mutual friend in Nashville.  JB is a producer and a long time musician, and I went over to his place to record some of my music.  We decided to try and write some music together and we really liked what we were coming up with.

We wanted to do a project together and we thought, ‘How do we do this?”   He had always done rock, so he was thinking about doing a country project.  I have these country melodies and he has that rock background.

But when we started working on the project, and listening to what we’d done, JB said, ‘Let’s get a combo together and see what happens, so he grabbed his Defense Wins Championships (DWC) bandmates and we’ve been playing together since 2012!”

LL:  I like the term that someone in the Nashville paper coined for your sound, “Country Garage Rock”.  Do you like that?

RN:  Yeah, our music kind of naturally grooved into this rock country thing because of our individual inspirations.  Basically, I am country and they rock.  And I get to sing my country melodies louder over their guitars, and I really like what we do. I’m proud of it.

Everyone might not get it.  Papa Willie’s fans, the traditional country music lovers might not get into it.   Or the punk rock music fans may not be into the country thing.  But somehow it works, and I think there is a little bit of something in there for everyone, to catch their attention.


You can also purchase the band’s album here:

LL:   You released your album last year, and now you are giving us a new single, with a video.

RL:  Yeah, we’ve decided to do something new this year.  Instead of working several months recording an album and then working to promote it for over a year, we’re going to periodically release singles.  “Brother” is the first of our new singles that we are going to release, along with the music video.  This is something I’d like to see my favorite artists do, too. Us fans want new music all the time!!!

LL:      Your music video went viral.   Is social media major part of your marketing plan?

RL:     We think social media works well with our plan to release a new single and music video every month.  “Brother” and the video has proven that it might work.  I am not saying we are not ever going to make an album, or ever going to sign with a music label, but right now, the way things are going works for us.  We want to be ahead of the game and keep doing it.

And we have made good connections, like Rolling Stone, who we met at Farm Aid.  They have been so good to us and receptive.  When we finished making the video, I e-mailed the link, and said, “Hey, check out this video.”  And then I heard back, ‘Yes! We are going to run it.’  We are so lucky to have those connections. The Rolling Stone Country guys are good people.

We have all these ideas, but we don’t always have the money to carry them out.  It’s fun and challenging to be innovative and try to figure how to carry out these ideas on a budget. “How am I going to do this without the money?”  We just have to be creative and figure out how to make new music and promote it, and how to make it happen.   If you make enough noise, people notice you.  With the internet, people want new music now, now now.  With the singles, we can give a lot of attention to each song.   And then we can get it right out to our fans, along with a music video, too.  And a special tee shirt!

If you work at it, you are feeding your music to the people, and each song gets more life.  I take a lot of time writing these songs.  I am not a quick song writer.   We spend a lot of time on each song before we put it out for the world to hear.  We want to highlight each song instead of just combining it in an album.  I think it’s a modern way to do things in the music industry.  It’s the new path.

Artists can show their fans what they have been up to for the past couple months. You can see what the artists are doing, new videos, and new music.  And they wouldn’t have to do a reality show, or be on social media constantly to try to keep in touch.  They can share their craft, their art directly to fans.

We want to be inspiring to other people, too, people who want to do it themselves.  You can do it.  Just get out there and do it.  It takes a lot of work, but it if it’s your thing and its fun – it’s not really not work at all.

LL:  Do you like writing and collaborating with others?

RL:  It’s a special thing to be able to write with someone.  JB and I have a good friendship connection so we can say, ‘I don’t like that.’   Or, ‘I really like that.’.  It’s a special relationship that doesn’t come around so often, especially in a song-writing town like Nashville.

I get stuck sometimes when I write songs.  And it’s nice to be able to call someone up and say, “Hey, I’ve got this idea, what do you think about this?.’  I write with friends, too, because when you’re a song writer and you’re hanging out with your friends that are song writers, somehow there’s always a song started before the visit is over with but I usually write with JB for our RNB project.  We do a lot of it over voice memo. I voice memo it and send it to him, and he will voice memo something and send it back.  Looking back to when we first met and started writing, I see how JB taught me how to pull pieces together to create something more.  He’s taught me a lot and I am learning so much from playing with these guys.


LL:  Do you ever call your grandpa for advice?

RL:   Yeah, I call him if I get to a place where I am stuck, or have a question or need to talk to him.  I was on his bus with him in New Orleans when our EP came out, and got to talk to him about it.  He told me not to worry about trying to get a label right now, just continue to record on my own.  He encouraged me to put out music the way I liked and to use social media to get the word out to friends and fans.

I remember, the first time I performed  by myself, I wasn’t in a band, and I messed up.  I texted Papa Willie afterwards because I was so bummed and told him I messed up the song, I stopped in the middle and said, ‘Shit’ to everyone over the mic.   And I had to start over.  Papa Willie made me feel better immediately; he texted back, “That’s what I do, I just start the song over.  Just pick it up and start all over.’  And then he told me to continue writing and to keep getting back up there and so I do.


LL:  What’s it like being onstage with your family at the end of a Willie Nelson concert?  The finale is always a highlight for us fans, but what’s it like for you?

RN:  It is always a surreal moment.   It’s not even a physical thing, it’s a spiritual thing.   You look around and you are surrounded by your family, singing.  And you think, ‘This is what we are supposed to be doing on this earth right now, this is what we were all born to do.

I get the same experience every time I listen to the “Moon Song”, the song with Papa Willie.  When I hear his guitar, I think, ‘This is right where I am supposed to be in the entire universe.”   I love my family.  They are really good people.   They are genuinely good and positive.  Like my Papa Willie, I don’t know how any one person can be on everyone’s side.  How can he be for every single person, and people know that and feel it.  I am so grateful for my family.

LL:  What’s it like living in Nashville?  Is everyone in the music business, or are there doctors and lawyers and such?

RN:  [Laughs], yeah, there are a lot of other industries.  Nashville is a medical city, too, there are several great hospitals here.  But everywhere you turn you meet someone who is in the music business or who used to be in the business or they write music.  There are so many amazing musicians here.  And even if someone does work as a doctor or lawyer, they also play music or they’re married to someone who is.  Nashville is just that way.

LL:  How is your mother?  Is she still in Nashville?

RN:  Yes, my mother is still in Nashville.  She is well.  She helps me out a lot with the kids.  She keeps them for me when I have to go to the studio or if I have a show.  She is heavily involved in her ministry and her church.  I’m very proud of all of the good work she puts into each individual who comes into her ministry. The time she spends praying for each person is admirable. She’s an inspiration, a role model, and a teacher to me and I’m so grateful to have her as my mama.

I was born in Nashville.  My mom and dad met here.  Dad was traveling through town with Papa Willie and they stopped by the radio station where my mom worked as a promotion girl.  They fell in love and got married.  Papa Willie had a cabin in Ridgetop that we all stayed in when I was a baby;   I don’t live too far from there now.

LL:  Did you play a musical instrument in school?

RN:  Yes, I was in the HLHS String Band. I went to Hunters Lane High School and took the music career courses.  I joined the String Band playing rhythm guitar and I remember my song to sing was, ‘Rocky Top’ at our gigs.  I took voice lessons from several vocal coaches and guitar lessons from one of my best friend’s dad, and I was in the HLHS show choir.

But I don’t feel I got good at playing the guitar and ukulele until just the past few years.   My mom says I came into the world singing but I was always shy about performing in front of people.  I’ve gotten more comfortable, but as far as singing my own songs, that’s only been the past few years.  For me, it took getting up there and doing it over and over and I am now addicted to the feeling of being on stage and entertaining.

And having my youngins inspired me to sing and perform.  It wasn’t until after I had them that I got inspired with all these songs and started writing them down. When I look back at my adult life, I think, ‘If I didn’t have the kids, I could just go off and tour whenever I want.”  But I know, if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t be doing this at all.  They inspired me so much at that time of my life. And now, they get to come along for the ride!

LL:  What do you do for fun?

RN:  My youngins and making music are my fun.  My whole life is home schooling them and my music life.  When they’re with their dad, I schedule time to write or spend time in the studio.  A friend of mine teaches yoga, and I try to take one of her classes each week.  Then my kids and I do yoga together every day, its music and yoga before bedtime every night. On free nights, I go catch shows in town. There’s always a show going on and sometimes I know the people playing which is always a party. I like to watch other shows and get inspired. Hanging with family, making music, and watching Nashville’s finest musicians do their thing is my fun!!!!!


LL:  You and your Aunt Amy are frequently in the news, speaking out against abusive treatment to animals.  Is that a cause that’s always concerned you?

RN:  Auntie really opened my eyes to the abuse going on against animals.  I was completely ignorant until she started telling me things.  I was 18 when Amy moved to Tennessee, and we were the Nelson family in Tennessee at the time.  We would hang out a lot and she educated me.  Then, one day she said, “Do you want to go to DC with me?”  And I said, ‘Yes!’  I want to represent our family in such a positive way.  I still can’t believe animals are treated the way they are, and people should know about it. Raising awareness is the most important job of the Animal Activist and it’s the easiest part. Auntie and I started a non-profit called Willie’s Kids with the idea to incorporate humane education into school curriculum. If we teach humane practices to the children while they’re in school, the next generations will be more compassionate and humane in their decisions. I predict a more compassionate America in generations to come.  I predominately follow a vegetarian diet for humane considerations.

LL:  I love the ‘Pun with Raelyn’ videos.  Any chance for more installments?

RN:  Yes, we are going to bring Puns back.  It’s one of the things we just can’t get back to, because we are so busy working on other projects — songs we want to done…and videos.  I think I just need to say to JB, “”Hey, let’s do a Pun this week.”   We have a few ideas that we want to do that are going to be so good.

LL:  What was first concert you ever bought a ticket for?

RL:  Well, my first concert ever was Papa Willie concerts….I can’t even remember the first one, I just remember going to them. Paid my own way?  It would have been a Christian group.  My mom kept me pretty close to Christian music and old country.  Then, when I was a teenager, I rebelled a little and started listening to top 40 pop and hip hop was big at the time.  I remember going to an ‘NSync concert when I was 14…..the boy band era. I wore baby blue so Justin Timberlake would notice me in the sea of baby blue at the Bridgestone Arena (which was Gaylord Entertainment Center at the time)…needless to say, he did not.


You can get your shirt at the band’s store:

The tee shirts are so cool, too.  Who did the artwork?

My son Aiden drew the design on dry erase marker board we have.  He drew the whole group of us.  Then I took a picture of it, and JB said, ‘That’s an album cover or something!  Keep it!’.  Then I had Brody go write ‘Raelyn Nelson Band’ on top of it.  That was a couple of years ago.

LL:  Oh – I hear kids in the background!  They need mom.  Thanks so much for your time.  See you on the 4th of July!

RL:  Thank you.  See you in Texas!!!! You rock, Linda Banks.

Follow the band on Facebook here.


Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, “Django and Jimmie” (new album out June 2, 2015)

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015





George Miguel, “California”

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015


I have been enjoying this cd, “California” from my friend George Miguel since it came out last year.  George is another of those music-loving friends that I met through Willie Nelson.    George and I went to see Willie Nelson & Family in San Francisco, at one of their Fillmore Auditorium Runs a few years ago.  George is a fountain of musical knowlege, and I learned so much about music, just talking with him about the show.  He is so knowledgeable, and a great songwriter and musician.

About George Miguel:

Born in Tucson and living in Southern California, George Miguel’s original music represents the fabric of the American West. Drawing from Country, Folk, and Rock, George creates memorable songs that tell a story. From the barren hills of Tombstone to the starry lights of Tinseltown, George writes about the dynamics of hope and desperation, love and loss, joy and sorrow, and the human experiences we all share.

“I’ve always written songs,” says George. “Inspiration is everywhere. The melodies are ever-present. Its harnessing that creativity into a song, an expression.”

Raised on Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, music was central to his childhood home. George says, “My mom played old school country, especially Willie and Johnny, and lots of Elvis. My dad played the blues and music of great guitarists, like Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn. I also have two cousins, brothers, who really inspired me. One is a hell of a guitar player, and he would show me stuff, push me to get better. The other cousin worked in record shops. He would give me CD’s, take me to shows and talk to me about music all the time.”

Like a lot of songwriters, it was the development of the writing process that proved the greatest risk and biggest reward for George: “You can write words and melodies, but creating meaningful words and melodies is another story. Getting in touch with the part of you that wants to express truth can be difficult. You start writing about things you don’t want to write about. It feels risky. Like a lot of people, essentially every meaningful moment in my life has been processed through music. That’s why I write songs. That’s the reward.”

George Miguel’s new album, “California,” will be released in November 2014. The all-original album is produced by legendary music producer and guitarist, Pete Anderson.

Learn more about George and his music at his website:

Listen to songs from George’s new album CALIFORNIA:

All songs above written by George Miguel and produced by Pete Anderson.On his release, “California,” singer-songwriter George Miguel teams with legendary producer and guitarist Pete Anderson on a collection of original songs inspired by life in the Golden State.
Click here to purchase “California” on iTunes
.Click here to purchase “California” on Amazon.
Click here to buy a physical CD.

This day in Willie Nelson History: Highwayman Released (May 2, 1985)

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

On May 2, 1985, Columbia Records released the “Highwayman” album, with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson

The Highwaymen:  Four Superstars Come Together
Music City News
August 1985
by Neil Pond

I was a highwayman
Along the coach roads I did ride
A sword and pistol by my side
Many a young maid lost her baubles to my trade
Many a soldier shed his lifeblood on my blade
The master took me in the spring of ‘25
But I am still alive

I’ll always be around, and around, and around, and around.

by Jimmy Webb

Mystical and uplifting, Highwayman has become the summer’s collaborative hit for the superstar quartet of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.  Their new LP, also called “Highwayman,” is a a coming together of boldly distinctive stylists that prompted one reviewer to observe “if Mount Rushmore could sing, this is what it would sound like.”

At Willie’s recent 4th of July picnic event in Austin, the audience was treated to the first ever public appearance of “The Highwaymen,” as the foursome have come to be collectively called.  After an all-day rain, the quartet gathered onstage to sing three songs as the sky gradually opened and spilled luminous orange twilight throughout the dissipating clouds.  It was a grandiose bit of meterological staging — coincidence, you ask?  — that fit nicely with the cover of the album, which shows the heavens parting and the four entertainers peering through like gentle mythological gods.

But the “Highwayman” project, despite it’s majestic overtones, was not a carefully calculated attempt at clustering the individual stars into one spectacular supernova recording — although that’s pretty much how things turned out.

The album’s roots are actually in Switzerland, where Willie, Waylon and Kris were guests of Cash at the taping a Christmas TV special last year.  After performing together on the show the four returned stateside and joined forces to cut a couple of songs intended for Cash’s upcoming solo album.  One of the songs was Bob Seger’s Against the Wind, which they had all performed together on the TV special.  The other was Highwayman, a song by New York-based writer Jimmy Webb themed around reincarnation.

“We’d intended it for my solo album,” says Cash of the song.  “But the more we recorded together, the more we realized that it should be an album of the four of us.”

Once the idea for an entire quartet album was concrete, Cash decided to sideline his own album until the group project could be completed. For three nights the four singer/songwriters gathered at producer Chips Moman’s Nashville studio and bantered around songs that they felt would be appropriate for their collaboration.  They drew from material both familiar (like Cash’s own Big River and Guy Clark’s Desparados Waiting for a Train and obsure to come up with a slate of songs that somehow seemed to fit their individual and collective imagery as purveyors of things original, Old-Western, and American.

It’s the title cut, however, that is attracting the most attention.  Already a hit single and an engaging video, its haunting theme of reincarnation makes for unusual country music fare.  In the song, Willie, Kris, Waylon and Cash each sing the part of a different individual who, in the end, turns out to be various reincarnations of the same person, the highwayman of the title.

“As far as subject matter, it’s a very meaty topic,” explains Rick Blackburn, head of Nashville’s CBS Records who gave the ultimate go-ahead for “Highwayman.”  “But I think country music is ready to deal with heavier topics as opposed to the stereotypes we’ve had all along.”

Lest some listeners imply that the enterainers themselves might be espousing personal afterlife philosopy with the song, Cash responds that he, for one, holds to other beliefs.

“I don’t believe in reincarnation,” he says.  “I’m a Christian and I sang the song because I liked it.  It’s a good song.  It’s a good melody, it’s excellent lyrics written by a really great songwriter.  But so far as the philosophy and the religion, if you will, of the song… it’s not my belief.  I’m not making a statement of affirmation in belief of transmigration of souls or any such thing.”

Ego never raised it’s ugly head in “The Highwayman” project.   The recording sessions were dominated by a shared comraderie between the four entertainers, a brotherhood beyond the business at hand.

“We never had any problems,” says Waylon.  “We don’t think of each other as superstars.  There were no ego trips.  We’re a lot alike.  We’ve all had our starving days, paid our dues.  We have a lot of respect for each other.  If you don’t record with somebody you like, it ain’t gonna be no good.”

The future of The Highwaymen quartet is undecided at his point, although it’s possible that the four will be making several appearances together throughout the summer.  “We can’t decide whose band we want to use,” says Cash, referring to the equally terrific musical line-ups that back each entertainer.  The four will appear, however, as the Highwayman on the upcoming coming Country Music Association Awards show in October.

A movie project re-make of the John Ford classic Stagecoach that would star all four in leading roles has also been talked about.  “That’s a possibility,” says Cash.  Willie, Cash and Kris all have substantial movie acting experience, but Waylon’s film resume is practically bare. ”I don’t get very excited about doing movies,” explains Waylon.  “I’m a singer.”

In the meantime, Cash and Kristofferson are pegged to begin production in September on a CBS television movie called The Last Days of Jesse James. (Kris will be Jesse, Johnny will be his brother Frank.)

Individually , the four Highwaymen are currently wrapped up in their separate careers as well as the promotional hoopla surrounding their group LP.  Cash’s oslo album for Columbia is finishing production.  Willie’s “Half Nelson” LP, also for Columbia, of duets with various artists will be released soon.  Waylon’s new “Turn the Page” album on RCA is fresh in the stores this month.  Cash and Waylon have also completed a duet album for imminent release and are dicussing a possible Western movie pair-up.

Kristofferson, the only act of the four not currently affiliated with a record label, is staying very busy on the road with his Borlderlords band.  A movie called Trouble in Mind,  in which he will co-star with Keith Carradine, is scheduled for release around Christmas.

So the Highwaymen continue to ride, separately if not together.  And who knows?  There’s the prospect of another four-way album.  Cash says they’ve got almost enough material in the can from the previous sessions.

Nothing lasts forever, but it certainly seems as if these guys are planning, in some configuration, on being around, and around, and around and around…

Neil Young talks about new album with Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson, and Monsanto

Friday, May 1st, 2015

photo: Ebet Roberts
by:  Andy Greene

Last September, just before he took the stage at Farm Aid Neil Young was hanging out on his tour bus with Willie Nelson’s sons Micah and Lukas. Out of nowhere, he asked if they wanted to come out and join him on “Rockin’ In The Free World” at the end of his set. “We were like, ‘Fuck yeah, dude,'” says Micah. “It felt great, like we’d been jamming together forever.”

Lukas and Micah both play guitar and have their own bands. Lukas, 26, fronts Promise of the Real, while Micah, 25, plays with Insects vs Robots and occasionally plays solo under the name Particle Kid. They have known Young as far back as they can remember. “He’s ‘Uncle Neil,'” Micah tells Rolling Stone. “But until a couple of Farm Aids ago, we never had a chance to just hang out and get a vibe from each other. At the same time, I feel like I’ve always known him forever through his music because it’s so honest.”

In the fall of 2007, Lukas met his future Promise of the Real bandmate Anthony Logerfo when they both caught Young’s show at Nokia Live in Los Angeles. “After the show, we went back to his place and went surfing in the night with a bunch of his buddies,” says Lukas. “I got stung by a stingray, and that night I had to sleep on his couch with my foot in a bucket of hot water to neutralize the [venom] protein. He brought me this huge pile of weed and I knew we’d be best friends after that.”

They called their new band, which features Logerfo on drums, Tato Melgar on percussion and Corey McCormick on bass, Promise of the Real after Young’s line, “Some get stoned, some get strange, but sooner or later it all gets real” from 1974’s “Walk On.” “We listened to Neil Young every day when we started the band,” says Lukas. “And ‘Walk On’ has always been one of my favorite songs.”

“Monsanto is the poster child for the problems we’re having with the corporate government,” Young recently said.

Two weeks after last year’s Farm Aid, Young and Nelson headlined the Harvest the Hope concert in Neligh, Nebraska to protest the proposed Keystone Pipeline. “We were playing as my father’s band that night,” says Lukas. “And Neil called us onto his bus and worked out a few songs he wanted to play with us. All of us just had a blast.”

The Bridge School Benefit came about weeks later, and once again Young called out Micah, Lukas and Promise of the Real to back him on a few songs. “We didn’t know that was going to happen,” says Lukas. “But we brought our instruments just in case he wanted us to join him. It went really well, but after that we didn’t talk for a while.”

Sometime in December, an e-mail arrived from Young. “He was like, ‘Hey, I wrote a bunch of new songs,” says Micah. “I want you guys to come do the record with me. Love, Neil.” They were stunned beyond belief. “I was so stoked,” says Lukas. “I can’t even describe how elated I was.”

The weeks passed and no plans came into place, but on January 7th, Rolling Stone asked Young about his next album at the International Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “‘I’m working on another album now that I’m going to be doing with Willie Nelson’s sons,” he said. It’s called The Monsanto Years. It’s an upbeat review of the situation.” The album is set for release in June, but at the time, this was news to more people than just Young fans. “That’s how we knew it was real,” says Micah. “With Neil, we’ve learned not to expect anything until it’s actually happening. Once it’s in print in the press and he said it, that was the moment where we knew it was for real.”


Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
by:  Patrick Doyle

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard have teamed up over the years, from their 1983 classic “Pancho and Lefty” to their Last of the Breed album and tour with Ray Price, but as Haggard has said, they only do it when the material is right. The duo linked, though, once they heard “Django and Jimmie,” a tribute to Nelson and Haggard’s respective heroes, Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers (written by Jimmy Melton and Jeff Prince). “It pulled my heard right out,” says Haggard. “I thought, ‘That’s a pretty good song.'”

It became the genesis of their new album, out June 2nd. In honor of Nelson’s 82nd birthday, enjoy this 10-minute video – filmed at Austin’s Arlyn Studios – which gives a rare glimpse into Haggard and Nelson working in the studio, full of weed and jokes. (“Can I borrow some money to get home?” Haggard asks Nelson.) “It’s almost surreal,” says producer Buddy Cannon, of being part of it.

In several fly-on-the-wall scenes, see them reminisce about Johnny Cash and duet on Bob Dylan. Their enthusiasm for the material is evident when they discuss “Unfair Weather Friend,” a new ballad written by Marla Cannon-Goodman and Ward Davis. “It’s got all the great ingredients of being one of those well-known standards,” says Haggard. Adds Nelson, “I think it has a good chance.”

In another scene, they wonder about a new lyric written by Jamey Johnson about a “cackle bobblehead in a box.” “Somebody’s got some weird shit they’re smoking,” someone in the studio says.

“Yeah,” Nelson says. “They’re holding out on us.”


“Django and Jimmie” album available June 2nd!