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Archive for the ‘Merle Haggard’ Category
“>”How did a friendly game of dominoes inspire the song “Where Dreams Go To Die” from ‘Django And Jimmie’? Watch the clip to find out.”
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photo: Janis Tillerson
It would be incredible enough to get to spend the fourth of July with Willie Nelson and his family, and hear the play music, but he always piles it on and turns it into a magical gathering of great musicians. This year, he invited Merle Haggard to perform, and joined him at the end of his set to perform. These photos are from Merle’s set, taken by Janis.
photo: Janis Tillerson
photo: Janis Tillerson
Thank you, Janis from Texas for your great photos.
photo: Erika Rich
See more great photos from Erika here.
by: Peter Blackstock
For a solid 10 hours, everything went off without a hitch Saturday at the first Picnic at the Racetrack. Returning to Austin for the first time in five years, Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic booked a remarkably strong lineup at Circuit of the Americas, and around 20,000 fans turned out to join in the celebration.
After the sun went down, though, everything went a little haywire. The Picnic crew had made it through 20 acts without ever falling more than 10 minutes behind, admirably shuffling short sets by the first 10 performers from 11:15 a.m. to just past 3 p.m. on a makeshift stage in the venue’s Grand Plaza. A wide grass lawn offered plenty of room for standing or sitting, plus quite a few picnic tables in back.
After 3 p.m., sets began rotating between the plaza and the main Austin360 Amphitheater stage. Things stayed on track for another six hours, as legends such as Kris Kristofferson, Leon Russell and Billy Joe Shaver split time with a superb cast of rising stars including Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Kacey Musgraves.
It was after Musgraves’ terrific 8 p.m. set that the back-and-forth shuffle between the two stages ceased, and the crew couldn’t keep up with the pace the rest of the way. A scheduled 15-minute reset on the main stage between Musgraves and Merle Haggard stretched to almost 40 minutes. By the time a scheduled short fireworks display followed Haggard’s set, the show was a full hour behind.
Adding to the down side was the necessity of sitting through an hour of Eric Church before Willie and his family band brought the show to its natural apex. Context is everything: When Church played the iHeartRadio Country Festival at the Erwin Center last year, he stood out as one of the night’s better acts, sounding about as good as mainstream country radio has to offer. But set against the likes of the Picnic’s otherwise brilliantly assembled lineup of songwriters, his songs about drinkin’ a cold one, drinkin’ a product-placement brand of whiskey and just drinkin’ the drink in his hand revealed him to be an empty suit.
For brief moments, he tried to break out, such as when he prefaced his quasi-anthem “Springsteen” with a heartfelt run through the first verse and chorus of Robert Earl Keen’s “Corpus Christi Bay” that begged for a full rendition. And he chose wisely in his set closer with The Band’s “The Weight,” inviting late-afternoon main stage highlight Chris Stapleton back out to sing one of the verses.
It was with Stapleton’s 4:40 p.m. set that the Picnic fully hit its stride. Kris Kristofferson had played the first set on the Amphitheater stage immediately before, performing solo with no fanfare but setting a proper tone that if you’re going to play Willie’s Picnic, you better bring along some top-shelf original songs. Stapleton, who’s written a lot of hits for other artists but is just now getting his shot in the spotlight with his acclaimed album “Traveller,” proved up to the task, shining with a soulful backing band that brought out the drama of songs such as “Nobody to Blame” and the record’s title track.
Next on the big stage was Sturgill Simpson, whose recent sold-out Stubb’s shows and “Austin City Limits” taping showcased a 2014 breakthrough album “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” that brilliantly synthesizes country and psychedelia. Simpson mostly avoided the latter on this day, choosing instead to delve more into his bluegrass roots — “I know we’re in Texas, but I’m from Kentucky!” he explained — in a 40-minute set that spotlighted his full-throated vocals and his band’s hot picking.
From a pure songwriting perspective, no one beat the main stage’s next performer, reigning Americana Music Association Artist of the Year Jason Isbell. As much as his 2013 album “Southeastern” sparked a career peak, it’s his upcoming “Something More Than Free,” due July 17, that stands to launch him into another league, judging from Saturday’s renditions of the album’s passionate title track and the spectacular first single, “24 Frames.” Isbell also reached back to his Drive-By Truckers days for “Outfit” and “Decoration Day,” both of which offered fitting alternate-view perspectives on the Independence Day atmosphere.
Amid this auspicious stretch of main stage up-and-comers was a strong anchor of sets from Picnic mainstays on the smaller stage. In succession, the swelling plaza crowd was treated to the classic honky-tonk of Johnny Bush, the outlaw mysticism of Billy Joe Shaver, the piano Hank-and-Stones shuffle of Leon Russell and the western swing revival of Asleep at the Wheel. Closing out the Plaza Stage run just before sundown was Jamey Johnson, who smartly kept the backing low-key so his vocals could shine on stirring covers of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
That was a perfect segue into the big-stage performance of Musgraves, who’s all the rage even in mainstream country circles these days but is smart enough not to lower herself to that common denominator. Dressed for the part in a spangly starred white outfit that played off her new album’s “Pageant Material” title, Musgraves proved fully worthy of a Picnic headlining slot with smart songs such as “Mama’s Broken Heart” and “Step Off” that pointedly refrained from Nashville bombast-and-cliche. And when she got to her smash hit “Follow Your Arrow,” it was a perfect fit for Willie’s Picnic, with its sly little exhortation in the chorus to “roll up a joint.”
It was all downhill from there, with the way-too-long pause before Haggard’s decent but unremarkable set sparked primarily by Willie’s cameo at the end for Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho & Lefty” and the novel single “It’s All Going to Pot” from their chart-topping new duo album. The fireworks, and Church’s lack thereof, chased some of the crowd home before Willie finally took the stage at 12:23 a.m. on July 5 – though the vast majority of the crowd did stick around in a heartfelt show of solidarity for their beloved host.
He and his Family Band — pianist Bobbie Nelson, harmonica player Mickey Raphael, bassist Kevin Smith and drummer/percussionists Paul and Billy English — rewarded them with about an hour of trademark Willie, from the obligatory “Whiskey River” and “On the Road Again” to medleys of his own timeless classics (“Funny How Time Slips Away”/“Crazy”/“Night Life”) and those of Hank Williams. Around 1:15 a.m., an official came onstage and apparently obliged them to wrap things up, so Willie invited out performers still on hand backstage including Kristofferson, Johnson and Church for “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away” before a finale that he described as “my new gospel song” — “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”
A quick look at early-afternoon highlights, which featured 15-to-20-minute sets from a cross-section of performers:
Three-named Texans Ray Wylie Hubbard and David Allan Coe got the Picnic faithful smiling and dancing with hallmark numbers such as “Screw You, We’re From Texas” and “Take This Job and Shove It,” respectively. A trio of Nelson family acts helped the crowd ease into the heat of the afternoon, with Paula Nelson paying tribute to Waylon Jennings and Mickey Newbury after Raelyn Nelson rocked out on Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” and the duo “Folk Uke” (Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie, Arlo’s daughter) sang comic songs that were mostly unprintable but quite entertaining. Sirius/XM DJ Dallas Wayne, a fine songwriter in his own right, played two excellent tunes and deserved more time. Armadillo World Headquarters veterans Greezy Wheels played a short but energetic set that helped put the Picnic in historical perspective. And Hudson Moore, Amber Digby and Pauline Reese provided a spark for those just arriving to the Circuit of the Americas grounds before noon.
Despite the late-night scheduling snafu, COTA proved a good spot for the Picnic, though its outrageous concessions prices are a failing grade on an otherwise strong report card. If a family of four spent the full day at the picnic and needed two meals, a couple of snacks, a few beers and sodas, and consistent hydration from bottled water — there are a few water fountains on site, but they’re tucked away — just the cost of those essentials could easily run $200-$300 for the day. With no food or drink allowed in, that amounts to racetrack robbery.
American-Statesman/Austin360.com staffer Dave Thomas contributed to this report.
by: Holly Gleason
“Everybody wants to be wilder than it’s accepted to be,” Merle Haggard, raggedy growl tempered with warmth, says without ceremony. “They wanna do and be more than people think is right. You know that saying ‘Well behaved women seldom make history’? It’s not just for women, you know.”
It’s afternoon in Lake Shasta, Calif., and Haggard has been kept twice as long by reporters as he was supposed to be. But the cantankerous legend is in a joyous mood, and he’s willing to ponder his reputation in light of Django & Jimmie, his duo project with Willie Nelson that hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and No. 7 on the Top 200 Albums charts.
“Well-behaved men?” asks Haggard incredulously. “Never been around ’em. Step out of line, you’ll be remembered because you stood out! Though as old as I am, it’s hard to step anywhere, let alone out.”
Haggard laughs a dust cloud of red dirt, hard life and light. It rolls down the phone line like a tumble weed. Cagey even at 78, he’s not beyond a joke, even if it’s on him.
Of course, he and Nelson weren’t afraid to mix it up a little, leveraging their elder status to drop “It’s All Going To Pot” back in April. The song, as much social commentary as an endorsement of smoking dope over other highs, is a frolic that uses common sense and humor to make points beyond the obvious.
“That’s one of those [songs] you just know people are going to love,” Nelson says with a chuckle from his bus somewhere in Idaho a few weeks later. “I’m surprised how fast medical marijuana is going, and decriminalization…People are figuring out it isn’t going away, I guess.
“Plus there’s a whole lot of money those bottom-liners can pick up, and that works for some people. Colorado’s doing very well and showing the rest of the country how this can go. Other parts of the world are more evolved and handle it, like Israel and Copenhagen…Here we’re a little dumber, a little more redneck in our attitudes. There are medical benefits, everything else.”
Haggard, more hardcore honky tonk to Nelson’s zen country, is even more direct: “I like the insinuation of giving up pills and giving up whiskey, that stuff. The financial aspects of the alcohol industry, the Valium and Diazepam people, that’s big business. But Grandma doesn’t get whipped and the little girl doesn’t get molested when people are high.
“And now that people are seeing the industrial reality? The monetary implications are immense.”
But beyond the clever Buddy Cannon/Shawn Camp/Jamey Johnson song, there’s much more to their collaborating. Having recorded five albums together over 50 years, including 1983’s No. 1 Pancho & Lefty, they tap a vein of creativity that brings out the best in each other. On Django & Jimmie, each covers one of the other’s classics: Haggard does “Family Bible” and Nelson roadhouses “Swinging Doors,” as well as a freewheeling take on Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”
“There are things that don’t get considered on our own,” Haggard explains. “We’re both writers and we have an excellent understanding of great songs, so when you bring us together, our focus isn’t on who wrote it, but what’s there and how does it work? Like a love song? We can sing it together. It’s about her, the woman you love, which is different than to her.”
Nelson concurs. “There’s a creative thing that happens. When you can do something with another person [like Haggard], something comes from that creative energy. It’s pretty simple like that: two people can make more music than one!”
And for all the classics and covers, it is the new songs like “Wilder,” “Where Dreams Go To Die” and “Unfair Weather Friend” that show both icons firing at the top of their creative game. The LP also captures the essence of the Man in Black in “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” with guest vocals from Bobby Bare, Nelson’s shufflin’ blues on “It’s Only Money,” and the crux of Haggard and Nelson’s relationship on “The Only Man Wilder Than Me.”
Culling some of Nashville’s best players, employing Nelson’s longtime producer Buddy Cannon, and setting up in Austin, the pair decided to have fun and savor the songs. Though there are no plans for the future, they’re enjoying the moment just fine.
“I write a little bit every day,” Nelson says. “It may not be any good, but I write and I get it out. When there’s something to write I try to put it down…and it feels good.
“Here we are with a No. 1 record, and that’s inspiring. The idea people want to hear what you have to say. Especially since we’re not getting any AM or FM airplay, really. I wanna enjoy this one for a little bit, just enjoy it without moving on to the next thing.”
Additionally, Haggard offers, “I’d like to leave a legacy of something. I can picture the music in my heart…I think it’ll keep my legacy alive. You look at Gene Autrey and Lefty Frizzell, Bob Wills and Ernest Tubb, those people playing dance halls when America was still really alive, that lasts.
“Willie and I both started playing music and got our first jobs trying to be guitar players, not singers, not songwriters, not stars. So people like Django and Roy Nichols were important to us both. We chased the same heroes and it shows. It’s why it’s the perfect title song for the album.”
In the end, the music still matters to them—mixing it up with good players, taking their songs out on the road. Nelson acknowledges the power and the draw of what both men are known for.
“I think it keeps you young! Something that makes you sing along, clap your hands and jump up and down? Nothing else does that, and when you’re doing that, you’re feeling alive.”
by: Chris Parton
Country legends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard team up for some pickin’ & grinnin’ in paradise in their new video for “Alice in Hulaland.” Filmed in Hawaii, Nelson’s home-away-from-the-road, the clip is filled with sunshine, sand and smiles from the pair of longtime buddies.
The track comes from their recent Number One album, Django and Jimmie — named after Nelson and Haggard’s respective musical heroes, jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers — and features a sound heavy on beachy steel guitar and carefree harmonica.
In the video, 82-year-old Nelson and 78-year-old Haggard relax with their acoustic guitars, looking totally at ease. Haggard even sports a pot-leaf-adorned hat, while Nelson — whose frame of mind needs no identifying symbols — kicks back in shades and a straw cowboy hat.
The lyrics to “Alice in Hulaland” are all about a sweet girl whom some might describe as a groupie. Naturally, the clip includes some pretty ladies, but it’s made to look more like an innocent home movie, not the pseudo peepshows that have become so common in modern country videos. Adding to the home-movie feel are scenes of beachfront shops and colorful locals, giving the impression that viewers might actually be getting a glimpse into what Nelson’s life on the green islands is really like.
After a pair of dates with Alison Krauss & Union Station this weekend, Nelson will adjourn to his home in Austin to prepare for his annual Fourth of July Picnic. Haggard is also on the bill, along with Eric Church, Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. Many of those same artists, led by Nelson, will participate in a July 6th tribute to Waylon Jennings, also in Austin.
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/see-willie-nelson-merle-haggard-kick-it-in-the-islands-in-new-video-20150626#ixzz3eS0dCh8i
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by: Clint Rhodes
In 1983, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard combined talents and delivered an entertaining ride with “Pancho & Lefty.”
Over 30 years later, the country music legends partner to pay tribute to the musical influence of Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers. The title track serves as a savory salute to the inspiration Reinhardt and Rodgers provided the two country outlaws as they sing, “Might not have been a Merle or a Willie, if not for a Django and Jimmie.”
The 82-year-old Nelson and 78-year-old Haggard furnish their weathered and time-tested voices to an honest, reflective and witty cluster of heartfelt arrangements.
As a teenager, I was unexpectedly introduced to Nelson’s material after coming across my older brother’s copy of “Willie and Family Live.” The double album from 1978 featured spirited versions of memorable songs such as “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “Whiskey River” and one of my personal favorite Nelson-penned tunes, “Hello Walls.”
I discovered Haggard’s gritty, honest style from listening to the country music my grandmother would continuously play during my regular weekend visits. Songs like “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” “Okie from Muskogee” and “Mama Tried” would spark my attraction to traditional country sounds.
Standout cuts include the touching “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash,” the humorous “It’s All Going to Pot” and a compelling cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”
The two artists swap songs as Haggard performs Nelson’s “Family Bible” and Nelson lends his signature style to Haggard’s “Somewhere Between.”
The moving ballads “Unfair Weather Friend” and “Where Dreams Come to Die” are as elegant as they are sentimental and charming.
The album comes to a suitable close with “The Only Man Wilder Than Me.” This captivating number about friendship, admiration and respect aptly describes the relationship between Nelson and Haggard.
The latest offering from these two country music icons is a comfortable collaboration that should motivate them to reunite on a more regular basis.
Clint Rhodes is the Herald-Standard music reviewer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fun behind-the-scene snippets from the studio, with Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard and Buddy Cannon.
Thanks to Diana Chang, Team Coco Digital, for finding this.
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The album is out! It’s fantastic.
by: Chuck Yarborough
Six times, country legends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard have gotten together to record duet albums, and each time, the only one better than the last one has been the next one.
Of course, none have topped 1983’s “Pancho and Lefty” in terms of popularity, just for that song alone. But from the first cut to the last, this week’s “Django and Jimmie,” the superstars’ homage to Belgian-born two-finger guitarist Django Reinhardt and country great Jimmie Rodgers could be the winner.
Reinhardt, a Romani Gypsy who lost the use of his pinky and ring fingers on his left hand in a fire and died at the age of 43 in 1953, is credited with creating a style of fast-picking, syncopated guitar called “hot” jazz.
Though Nelson is hardly jazz, he employs a lot of that rapid-fire style of picking on his beloved Martin acoustic, Trigger.
Lyrics in the title cut note that without Django, there might not have been a Willie Nelson, and that Haggard learned to sing listening to Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel.”
It’s a sweet song that works because two longtime friends and legends clearly are having a blast doing it. But it’s rivaled by “It’s All Going to Pot,” which features co-writer and country traditionalist Jamey Johnson.
“Live This Long” contains a refrain to which all of us who’ve discovered more salt than pepper in our hair can relate: If we’d known we were gonna last this long, we’d have taken better care of ourselves.
Perhaps the sweetest tune is the Haggard-penned “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash,” featuring “500 Miles Away From Home” songwriter Bobby Bare on guest vocals.
“Alice in Hulaland,” co-written by Nelson and producer-frequent songwriting partner Buddy Cannon, is a nice little country ditty that makes fun – respectfully, of course – of groupies. And yes, guys who are in their late 70s (Hag is 78) and early 80s (Nelson is 82) can have groupies.
Haggard’s storied “Family Bible,” “Swinging Doors” and “Somewhere Between” resurface on the album, given new life by the presence of his longtime pal, Nelson.
But maybe that’s because, as the Hag wrote in the album’s walk-off tune, Nelson is “The Only Man Wilder Than Me.”