Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

Willie Nelson & Family and Alison Krauss & Union Station (Detroit) (July 13, 2014)

Sunday, July 13th, 2014



• Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss & Union Station
• 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 13
• Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Pkwy., Sterling Heights
• Tickets are $45-$79.50 pavilion, $10 lawn|
• Call 586-268-5100 or
by:   Gary Graff

A Willie Nelson appearance usually gets folks excited simply because he’s an American music icon. But it’s even more exciting when he’s adding new songs to his legendary repertoire.

Nelson’s new “Band of Brothers” marks the first album in nearly two decades to feature primarily his own material — nine of 14 tracks, in fact. And Nelson is quick to credit album producer and co-writer Buddy Cannon for getting him back into writing mode.

“He produced the album, but he’s also a great writer and we’re good together,” Nelson, 81, explains. “We had a sort of formula that worked. I’d come up with an idea I’d send him, just me and the guitar, just one take on it, and he would take that into the studio and hire musicians and cut the whole track from that, then I’d go back and put my vocal on it.

“So it was an easy album to cut, really.”

Nelson even has another album he plans to release later this year, which he recorded with his regular band and features “about eight or nine originals” including “Back To Earth” and “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” as well a version of Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” But he adds that the was never particularly concerned about the lack of new songs he was releasing during the interim.

“With writing, some days you feel like doing it, some days you don’t,” explains Nelson, who also recorded songs by Vince Gill, Billy Joe Shaver, Billy Burnette and others for “Band of Brothers.”

“A lot of times you get an idea and you have to write about it, or at least I do. The ones you HAVE to write are usually the ones that become the best songs.”

WIllie Nelson: Band of Brothers

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Willie Nelson

Band of Brothers (Sony / Legacy Recordings)

Phases & Stages

by: Tim Steagall

“Well, it seems that I’ve been here before/ So if this means that there is more – bring it on.”

So intones a familiar, reedy voice, none the worse for wear over 81 years and delivering the titular punch line with characteristic Lone Star Zen: laissez-faire delivery of steel resolve. Halfway through the first verse of the first song on the first album of predominantly self-penned material since 1996, Willie Nelson sounds downright pugilistic. On the occasion of his last set of originals, Spirit (inhale “Twisted Williemania,” Feb. 9, 1996), Abbott’s favorite son invited us aboard his bus the Honeysuckle Rose after having just been dropped by his label of 18 years, Columbia Records. For the better part of the next two decades, he then concentrated on his Louis Armstrong-like interpretive and duet skills – anyone, anytime, any place – occasionally hitting when paired with a Toby Keith (“Beer for My Horses”).

Now, Nelson’s Band of Brothers debuts at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Country Albums rankings and No. 5 overall, breaking several of his own career highs. All he needed to revive his commercial fortunes was to obey his calling: songwriting. Remember, having penned deathless standards including “Hello, Walls,” “Crazy,” “Night Life,” and “Funny How Time Slips Away,” the Red-Headed Stranger didn’t make his name on his braids. While Band of Brothers‘ new ones are co-writes with the producer Buddy Cannon, the lyrics are clearly Nelson’s, which taken as a whole constitute as deeply personal a document as any he’s authored. One key track, “Guitar in the Corner,” acknowledges writer’s block before turning it into a metaphor for a faltering relationship: “There’s a guitar in the corner/ That used to have a song/ I would hold it while it played me/ And I would sing along.” Two plays later, Nelson’s hitting “The Wall,” singing of spending “Half my life ridin’ on a rocket/ One world to the next then on and on,” afterward resolving to make improvements: “Taking things to make it make me better/ Remembering things I never knew I’d knew.”

Accompanying Western grooves that harness all the compositions into a cohesive ride – each accessorized with the bandleader’s Django Reinhardt-loving acoustic guitar solos – most of the lyrics speak of broken-down romance, with lines as telling as those in “Send Me a Picture” (“Send me a picture when we were together/ When we held the world in the palm of our hands/ When life had a future forever and ever”). Elsewhere, his interpretive muscles flex hard, as with Billy Joe Shaver’s modern country protest, “Hard to Be an Outlaw”: “Singin’ ’bout the back roads that they never have been down/ They go and call it country but that ain’t the way it sounds”. Even then, Band of Brothers belongs solely to Willie Nelson. This is the sound of rust being ground out, cylinders squeaking back to life, engines and carburetors opening wide on the road again.


Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by:  Dave Thomas

By Dave Thomas

FORT WORTH — “I think we’re tied for the most bras tossed onstage,” Dierks Bentley told the Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic crowd. “Austin is right up there with you.”

So, Austin, we have that going for us.

No, actually, we lost that record in short order. Of course such a record seems dubious, if I were Dierks Bentley, I’d say that at every show.

And he probably does. A human super ball of energy, Bentley had the crowd in the palm of his hand early. He never missed a chance to say “Fort Worth” and by the time he sang the extra verse to “Am I The Only One” — about good times at the Picnic — he had an army.

Who could top that?

Easy, the guy whose name is on the show.

Coming out at 9:50 p.m. to a crowd that Billy Bob’s Texas says topped 10,000 (though I would guess significantly more), Willie Nelson hit the opening chords of “Whiskey River,” the Texas flag dropped down behind him and he let loose about 75 minutes of old hits and new songs. The elder statesman of the Picnic, Willie is as cool as John Lee Hooker. He ran through his standard opening numbers — including a run of “Ain’t it Funny,” “Crazy” and “Night Life” that was accompanied by fireworks in the distance — and found his way to newer songs “Breathe,” “Bring it On” and “Band of Brothers.”

By the time Willie returned to old standards such as “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys” and “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” — the sea of fans at the south stage had begun to recede a bit — glassy-eyed and limping faithful who were clearly thinking “OK, we’ve seen Willie, now we can go” were doing just that.

There’s no doubt, the Picnic is an endurance test for folks who want to take it all in. And with only 13 artists (outnumbered 2-1 by official sponsors), it didn’t seem right to miss anyone. So by mid-afternoon you’d have sad sights: An older woman hobbling in cowboy boots alongside a shell-shocked man. Angrily red sunburned faces of the stubborn and ghost-pale faces of  those who were a swoon away from being carted away by the EMS. On the other hand, there was that fellow in black leather, looking like David Allan Coe did in the 1970s, eating a fudgsicle and walking through the crowd like somebody’s bad dream. Some folks are impervious.

That doesn’t include David Allan Coe in the 2010s. He limped out with a walker, sat down in a chair and was handed an ’80s-style hair-metal guitar full of sharp points, and he launched into Merle Haggard’s “Rambling Fever.” After that, we entered the Coe Medley Zone and we never left. I think one song was “My Long Hair Never Covered up The Ride.” Nine years ago in this very spot, Coe was a force of nature — love him or hate him, you couldn’t take your eyes off him. A decade and a serious car wreck later, he’s fighting onward, but it seems uphill now.

The Picnic has been losing regular performers faster than it has been gaining them. It picked up Jamey Johnson a few years back, but more are needed. I don’t know how long the Picnic will go on, but for however long that is, Ryan Bingham should be at every one. Bingham’s unpretentious style (write excellent songs, step up to mike, sing the hell out of them) fits in perfectly alongside the legends he followed. And his fans loved him for it, every song (“Dollar a Day,” “Dylan’s Hard Rain,” “Sunrise,” “Country Roads”) was greeted with a huge “whoooo” of appreciation.

At the soft opening of “Day is Done,” Bingham’s rasp rattled the North Forty like a small earthquake. By the time he hit the middle of “Bread and Water,” an American flag was waving above outstretched hands at the right of the stage and suspicious puffs of smoke were floating above the left side. One of the benefits of a 75-minute set is the opportunity for the rarest of Picnic things: An encore. And Bingham, in an inspired move, closed his with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”

After dozens of Picnics — he made his debut 40 years ago at the same College Station Picnic where Robert Earl Keen’s car caught on fire — Ray Wylie Hubbard totally gets it: Hit the crowd hard with what they want and don’t stop hitting until the set is over. If they never catch their breath, they’ll never notice they are baking in a dusty field. “Rabbit” quickly lead to “Snake Farm” anad “Drunken Poets Dream.” By the team we got to the sing-along of “Redneck Mother” beers were held high, waving in not-quite-unison.

Earlier in the day, Charley Pride came out in a purple shirt and got a royal reception to match. The country legend got the biggest roar of the early afternoon, opening with “Six Days on the Road” before getting to what everyone was waiting for: “Is Anybody Going to San Antone.” Pride worked the stage, microphone in one hand and a white towel in the other to mop the sweat from his head, never missing a note while he did so. It took him awhile to get warmed up — 20 minutes in I was wishing terribly he’d get a bonus 20 minutes — but once he did, he was mesmerizing.

The Willie Picnic crowd seems to love a legend we haven’t seen very often, and Willie has a long history of making them part of his show. The crowd ate up “All I have to Offer You (Is Me)” and “Mountain of Love” and he gave the fans in the front little waves before we got our first hair-stand-on-end moment of the day: a patriotic song — which I’ll guess is called “America the Great.” It was one of the great Picnic moments that I’ve seen in the past decade.

Pride gave us all we came to see, ending with “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” and working that warmed-up voice with “Kaw-Liga.”

It’s as if Johnny Bush saw Leon Russell’s fiery set at last year’s show and took it as a personal challenge. Bush, who is the traditional country music heart of the Picnic, came out with “There Stands the Glass” and didn’t slow down from there. He joked with the crowd a moment: “I talked to Willie yesterday and he said next year we’re going to do the Fourth of July Picnic in February.” But then it was one great hit after another: “Undo the Right,” “Pipeliner Blues” and “All the Rage in Paris” — an excellent new song he wrote with Randy Rogers.

After an instrumental break — if twin fiddles don’t stir your soul, you ain’t in the right place — he closed with hits “Green Snakes” and “Whiskey River.”

There was drama early in the day when a fellow passed out at the front of the south stage about halfway through Folk Uke’s set. Cathy Guthrie and Amy Nelson stopped the show and called for EMS services, who quickly revived the older gentlemen and hustled him off to the medical tent (later, I would find myself standing next to him at the Ray Wylie Hubbard set — rock on, dude). When it was obvious that the man was not in real trouble, the Nelson family quickly turned comedy team.

“That’s OK, the song wasn’t very good anyway,” Amy said. Brother Micah joked, “My solo was so bad he passed out.”

Micah was sitting in on Folk Uke’s set of charmingly profane and profanely charming songs before bringing out his band Insects vs. Robots. The comedy would continue during the set change: “I have a really offensive joke,” Micah told the crowd. “Can you handle it? Is this America?”

We won’t tell you the joke, for much the same reason we won’t tell you what songs Folk Uke played, but it led right in to Insects vs. Robots, which brought the “I like this, but what the heck is it?” to the Picnic for the second year. Their set consisted of 2 extended jams, the last ending with the whole band wailin’ out of tune, which was as close and as far as this Picnic would get to Waylon Jennings.

Amber Digby’s traditional country set the tone for the hundreds filing in during the opening hour. Not sure why her and her 7-piece band got a full hour (during the Luckenbach hour this would’ve been split up into four local acts, each overjoyed to be there), but Digby made the most of it, including an inspired closing song: Johnny Paycheck’s “If I’m Going to Sink (Might as Well Go to the Bottom).”

For those of you keeping track of such things, beer was running $6 a 16-ounce bottle, and if you spent too much money, you might have ended up like the girl who ran up and puked into the trashcan I was standing next to. The beer wasn’t the only overpriced thing: Official Willie T-shirts started at $40 and climbed from there.

Back to Dierks Bentley: He came out to “5-1-5-0″ and soon beach balls were bouncing everywhere. Bentley snagged one from mid-air and held it before him like a he had lopped it off of someone’s neck. The crowd went nuts. Actually, the crowd was nuts the whole show, soaking in “Free and Easy” and “Tip it on Back” and, particularly, “Drunk on a Plane.”

Bentley is unstoppable, bringing a fan on stage for a beer-shotgunning contest, climbing down to the fence to high-five fans, grabbing a camera for a selfie. He tells us that he told Willie’s manager years back that his bucket list included playing Willie’s Fourth of July Picnic and Farm Aid. Halfway there. Another faux-encore leads to, of course, “What was I Thinking.”

Later, as Willie is winding down his set, starting with “Will the Circle be Unbroken” and leading into “I’ll Fly Away” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” he has been joined by the remaining stars of the day — Bentley and Johnson and Bingham are among them — for the traditional closing stretch. Willie sounds great, his voice about 20 years younger at this moment, when he starts up what will be the last song, Hank Williams’ “I Saw The Light.”

Done, Willie takes off Trigger and starts to head backstage as the band keeps the song going. Then Willie changes his mind, comes back to the mike and gives us one more refrain. It’s hard to tell from here, but he seems reluctant to leave the stage. Then he gives us all a little bow and a little wave and that’s it.

A sign? Will there be a 42nd annual Picnic? With Willie you never know.

About Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas has been a copy editor, designer and now web producer for the Austin American-Statesman since 2002.

Send Dave Thomas an email.






Read Dave Thomas article here.

Willie Nelson’s timeless performance in Kansas City (7/6/14)

Monday, July 7th, 2014

photo: Ray Inman
by: Timothy Finn

A ticket to a Willie Nelson show can be a bit of a gamble. Ever the road warrior, Nelson, who turned 81 in April, is prone to an off night here and there. But when he’s on, he can still deliver a show for the ages.

Sunday night at Starlight Theatre, before a near sold-out crowd of 7,500-plus, Nelson was as on as he could possibly be, delivering an energetic 78-minute set filled with almost two dozen songs, all colored vividly by his inimitable vocal style and his nimble, genre-hopping way of playing guitar.

Nelson headlined a bill that included Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and Alison Krauss and Union Station.

Isbell, a former member of the Drive-By Truckers, is a Southerner whose songs typically are narratives thick with details and imagery. His music leans toward alternative country and ’70s country-rock. His 35-minute set included tracks off “Southeastern” his most recent studio album, including “Live Oak,” “Stockholm” and “Traveling Alone.”

Krauss followed with a set that showed off her porcelain voice and her band’s inexhaustible precision. She and her bluegrass band, Union Station — Jerry Douglas, Dan Tyminski, Ron Block and Barry Bales — have been together more than 20 years, and it shows.

Their harmonies and instrumentals were impeccable and spot-on, suffering no obvious dropped or misfired notes, including Douglas’ fiery instrumentals on the dobro on Paul Simon’s “American Tune” and Chick Corea’s “Spain.”

Her set included favorites like “The Lucky One,” “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” and “Every Time You Say Goodbye,” plus two tracks from the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack: “Down to the River to Pray” and “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” featuring Tyminski on lead vocals.

Nelson followed with a set that featured many of the songs for which he is best known. He opened with “Whiskey River,” then barnstormed through almost two dozen songs.

He was in a spry mood all night, arousing some singalongs, waving to fans up front and tossing souvenirs into the crowd, including a bandana or two.

His voice was strong and agile throughout, and his guitar work was at times spectacular, whether plucking bluesy leads or strumming percussively and tossing some dissonance into the mix.

There were plenty of highlights: his jazzy rearrangements of “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Crazy” and “Night Life,” played back-to-back-to-back; the singalong that erupted during “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”; his covers of Waylon Jennings’ “Good Hearted Woman,” Billy Joe Shaver’s “Georgia on a Fast Train” and Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night”; Nelson’s version of Django Reinhardt’s instrumental “Nuages”; and his dazzling intro to “I Never Cared for You.”

Throughout, he shared the spotlight with his band, including his sister Bobbie Nelson on piano and blues harpist Mickey Raphael.

There was no official encore, but he closed the show by summoning his openers onstage to join him on several tunes. The last two of those came from different spiritual places: “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” a nod to Willie’s favorite habit, then Hank Williams’ gospel classic, “I Saw the Light.”

As that song drew to a close, Nelson put down his guitar and exited stage right, waving to the crowd, which showered him with a hero’s ovation. It was a fitting close to a superb show. On this warm summer evening, Willie Nelson was the light.

Set List:

Alison Krauss and Union Station: Let Me Touch You for Awhile; Dustbowl Children; Who’s Your Uncle; The Lucky One; Baby, Now That I’ve Found You; Ghost in This House; Rain Please Go Away; Sawing on the Strings; Wild Bill Jones; Every Time You Say Goodbye; Jerry Douglas instrumental (American Tune/Spain); Hey, Brother; The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn; Paper Airplane; I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow. Encore: When You Say Nothing at All; Whiskey Lullaby; Down to the River to Pray; Your Long Journey.

Willie Nelson: Whiskey River; Still Is Still Moving to Me; Beer for My Horses; Kansas City; Funny How Time Slips Away; Crazy; Night Life; Me and Paul; Shoeshine Man; Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys; Good Hearted Woman; Help Me Make It Through the Night; Georgia on My Mind; Georgia on a Fast Train; Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground; On the Road Again; Always on My Mind; Nuages; Bring It On; Band of Brothers; I Never Cared for You; Will the Circle Be Unbroken; I’ll Fly Away; Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die; I Saw the Light.


Willie Nelson’s ‘Band of Brothers’ (review)

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Willie Nelson’s “Band of Brothers”

Nelson’s first full album of predominantly new material since 1996 sees the country music singer-songwriter in fine form, displaying top-notch melodies and instrumentation, and unique vocals that have only become more characterful with age.

Highlights here include the confessional The Wall – replete with slide guiatrs and a ‘rear view mirror’ narrative, the rollicking honky tonk of Crazy Like Me, and the slow country rocker Band of Brothers – but the whole album is accomplished and stands up well to Nelson’s (and the genre’s) best work.

He may be 81 years of age, but this octogenarian has still got it.

Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic

Monday, July 7th, 2014

photo:  John Herring
by: Tiney Riccardi

Thousands of smiling, sun-kissed faces decked out in red, white and blue flooded the Fort Worth Stockyards Friday to experience a pair of Texas country legends – the musician in his 81st year and picnic in its 41st. The daylong event, which hosted an estimated 12,000 people according to Billy Bob’s Texas spokeswoman Amy McGehee, functioned like a miniature festival, with 12 acts across two stages and the blended scent of livestock and marijuana in the air.

As a first-year attendee, I received an earful from those that had attended the last two, five, even 16 consecutive years. If the group costumes, crisp cowboy hats and American flags repurposed as clothing were any indication, Willie’s Picnic has a charming sort of gravitational pull. One Red Headed Stranger look-alike was so convincing, he parted the crowd on his way through.

Musical offerings spanned the country spectrum with an impressive showcase of fusion styles including funk, gospel, swing and pop. Willie’s son Lukas Nelson took the stage as Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real midday, diverting the crowd’s mind from the oppressive heat with a sampling of slick guitar lines, African drum beats and improvised jam breaks.

Ryan Bingham was another stand out, whose raspy voice and soulful lyrics earned him the first encore of the concert. Bingham returned to the stage solo to play “Hallelujah” before rounding out the set with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” backed by his full band.

As the sun set, music hungry fans emerged from the air-conditioned Billy Bob’s Texas to see Nashville’s Dierks Bentley. In a backwards flat bill and baseball tee, Bentley riled up the audience with his frat-like swagger, flashing his abs and shotgunning beers with shirtless cowboys on stage.

But no one satisfied more than the headliner. Nelson’s performance was a communal source of enjoyment, as strangers linked arm-in-arm to sing the classics like “Whiskey River,” “On the Road Again” and “Still Is Still Moving to Me.” The set put the whole band’s talent on display. Willie’s sister Bobbie Nelson took the spotlight on grand piano during “Down Yonder,” and with sons Lukas and Micah on guitar and drums, the family paid tribute to Texas blues with a riveting cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood.”

In his old age, Nelson seems to talk his lyrics more than sing them, but his musicianship on vocals and guitar was nonetheless on point. He didn’t tempt attendees with an encore, instead ending the show strongly with a cadence of guest artists including Lily Meola on “Will You Remember Mine.” Bentley and a camp of eight others joined Nelson for a rendition of gospel tune “I’ll Fly Away” and original “Roll Me Up.”

Fireworks crackled over downtown as Willie took a bow. Unquestionable, it will be worth attending future picnics just to see him take another.

Willie Nelson Going Strong: Band of Brothers (review)

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Willie Nelson’s “Band of Brothers”
by: Dean Gordon-Smith

At 81 years old and 50-plus albums, Willie Nelson is a clear eyed reporter of world weary choices, moody regret and aw shucks bad assery.

On Band of Brothers, his first mainly original album in over a decade, Nelson reasserts his songwriting mastery in an album replete with his end-of-the-night chord patterns and western swing/country pop hybrid songs.

Nelson’s vigorous work ethic has kept his tremulous voice in solid form (as a vocal stylist, his shaky voice is singular.) Producer Buddy Cannon’s highlighting of Nelson’s voice and rickety, elegant guitar work dovetail sweetly into the relaxed songs of Band of Brothers – an unhurried collection of classic Nelson themes of camaraderie (Guitar in the Corner), the road (Band of Brothers) and wayward love (Wives and Girlfriends).

This album shines light on Nelson’s songs which, along with his voice, are ageless because they’ve always sounded old.

Both are strong and confident, shaded by darkness and humour: He’s no serious prophet but he’s a wry observer of basic situations who turns simple sentiments into roadside wisdom.

Nelson has always had an ear for the “whatever happens,” the type of view as heard on Used to Hear:

“I wish I wasn’t used to her back then, I could have picked a good girl who did not crave other men/ I wish I wasn’t used to her back then.”

Band of Brothers is focused on Nelson’s ensemble, playing western swing songs and easy excursions into bluesy sounds (The Git Go, Hard to Be an Outlaw).

His workhorse musical output has kept his vocal/guitar and songwriting skills vital and pleasantly weathered. This album hones in on all three of his talents with emphasis on the latter. He gives an insight to his longevity and drive on The Songwriters: “We write bridges, we cross ‘em and burn ‘em/Teach lessons but don’t bother to learn ‘em.”

Who needs a duet when Willie’s got Trigger?

Saturday, July 5th, 2014


another amazing photo by Jay Blakesberg

The Willie Nelson Duets We Would Love to See Happen

by: Darryl Smyers

Who needs a duet when Willie’s got Trigger? Well, we do actually.

Seeing that the legendary Willie Nelson is performing at his annual 4th of July picnic this Friday, we at DC9 thought it time to do some wishful thinking about dear Willie. The guy has always loved doing duets. He’s performed songs with (among others) Snoop Dog, Steven Colbert, Julio Iglesias, Kid Rock, Carlos Santana, Neil Young, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Ray Charles.
As anyone can see from the above list, Nelson doesn’t mind mixing in the unexpected collaboration. Interestingly, he always seems to get it right even when the duet partner is well outside the country mainstream. We think Mr. Nelson would do well with duets with just about anyone. Here are some choice suggestions that we’d love to see happen.
1. Slayer
Nelson’s reedy tenor might not make it through the full-throttle roar of Slayer, but it would be fun to try. The speed metal version of “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” is crying to be made. Or perhaps it would simply make you cry.

2. Ice-T
I’m thinking Ice-T with Body Count banging away at “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.” Of course, Ice-T would have to take time away from Law and Order and he hasn’t made an album with Body Count since 1994. But a guy can dream, can’t he?

3. Black Flag
This would be the real Black Flag with Henry Rollins, not the fake version currently being perpetrated by Greg Ginn. Who wouldn’t enjoy Nelson harmonizing with Rollins on “Whisky River?” This duet would get extra points seeing that Rollins abstains from drugs and alcohol and everyone knows Nelson’s predisposition for illegal substances.

4. Ministry
Al Jourgensen kind of looks like a demonic version of Nelson, so why not an industrialized, mutant version of “On the Road Again?” This would have needed to happen back in the ’80s when Ministry still mattered. It would have probably energized both Nelson and Jourgensen.

5. Toadies
This should have already happened. Hearing Fort Worth’s best rock band united with Nelson on a stomping version of “Crazy” would be an alt-country wet dream. I think a couple of publicists ought to start making some calls and make this happen.

6. Old 97′s
See above, but change the song to “Night Life.”

7. Roger McGuinn
Two of music’s most recognizable voices meld perfectly on a killer take of “Angels Flying Too Close to the Ground.” The song has already been covered by Bob Dylan and we know how McGuinn, the former Byrd, loves him some Dylan.

8. The Replacements
What else does Paul Westerberg have to do rather than duet with Willie on “City of New Orleans?” Westerberg cannot harmonize to save his life, but he’d stumble his way through it in prime Replacements tradition.

Concert Pick of the Day: Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, Jason Isbell (7/9/14)

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014



Sorry, other shows. Any time Willie Nelson comes to town, it’s just gonna be our pick. That’s the way it goes. Not to mention, the country icon is bringing Alison Krauss and Jason Isbell with him, so we really were left with no other options. See the acclaimed and beloved singer-songwriters perform in an outdoor setting (because, you know, it’s Willie)

7 p.m. Wednesday,
July 9
The Zoo Amphitheatre,
2101 NE 50th St.
Oklahoma City, OK
Call 602-0683 or visit

Willie Nelson: Band of Brothers

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Willie Nelson’s “Band of Brothers”
by:  Chris Talbott

Willie Nelson has written a song – sometimes two, three or four – for every occasion, mood and moment. There’s Wistful Willie. Defiant Willie. Repentant Willie. Randy Willie. Preacher Willie. Populist Willie. Whimsical Willie. Vengeful Willie.

Nelson the songwriter returns in all his wonderful guises on the first album of mostly new material he penned himself since 1996′s “Spirit,” the best album of the latter half of his 60-year career. Nelson wrote nine of the 14 songs on “Band of Brothers” with album producer Buddy Cannon, and each song is a perfect projection of its writer’s best qualities. They’re comfortable, familiar, well-worn, but also new and different.

Nelson is 81 now, and the new songs make allowances for this. His defiant moments sound a little more world-weary, his regrets a bit more painful. But his sense of humor and philosopher’s personality remain un-diminished.

“Band of Brothers” opens with Defiant Willie staring down the storm on “Bring It On.” Wistful Willie lets the “Guitar in the Corner” play him, Repentant Willie hits “The Wall” and Randy Willie leads us through a tall tale of all his “Wives and Girlfriends,” “but may they never meet/may they never know each other when they pass on the street.”

Populist Willie provides the title track, a beautiful display of the sentiment that has made Nelson incongruously both an outlaw and a figure beloved by all. “We’re a band of brothers and sisters and whatever/On a mission to break all the rules.”

Nelson positions that song between a pair of Billy Joe Shaver covers – “The Git Go,” featuring Jamey Johnson, and “It’s Hard to Be an Outlaw” – midway through the album, and this outlaw triptych serves as a powerful reminder of why we’ve loved Nelson all these years.

Willie Nelson: the Sage of Country Music

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

by: Ann Powers

When Willie Nelson was a young hustler selling songs to Patsy Cline’s people, he probably never thought he’d become the crowd-anointed sage of country music. But that’s what happened as the Redheaded Stranger went gray, turned smoking weed into a brand and a virtue, and produced a discography that added up to its own American Songbook. Nelson’s gentle persona and approach has always somewhat masked his fire: to have hits; to play his legendarily worn guitar, Trigger, with killer precision; and to sing, in that quiet voice, with skill that matches the jazz greats who’ve inspired him. On Band of Brothers, Nelson’s first album of mostly original material in 18 years, he calmly asks listeners to consider his whole person.

He still embraces his Yoda role. (Nelson can’t avoid it; someone’s even made a paper doll of Nelson and the Star Wars sage, combined.) “Bring It On” opens Band of Brothers with a cowboy lope and an inspirational salvo: “It’s written in the Good Book that we’ll never be asked to take any more than we can,” Nelson sings, his reedy tenor growing declarative. “Sounds like a good plan.” Within this first track, he’s gotten the guru job out of the way.

Then come other moods. “The Wall” is confessional without being in the least bit sappy, reminiscent of the writing of Nelson’s friend Kris Kristofferson. “Wives and Girlfriends” and “Crazy Like Me” bring the bawdy honky-tonk humor, giving Nelson’s band of unfussy virtuosos a chance to pick up the pace. “Hard to Be an Outlaw,” a Billy Joe Shaver song (originally recorded as a duet with Nelson) about aging out of the country bad-boy role, becomes wry in Nelson’s hands, more like the reflections of Mad Men‘s Roger Sterling than a Game of Thrones-style howl of the Hound.

Band of Brothers is a self-portrait of a long, up-and-down life — specifically the life of an artist. The title track pays tribute to the community (“a band of brothers, and sisters, and whatever”) that Nelson has built with his fellow players and his fans. “The Git Go,” another Shaver song performed here as a bluesy duet with Jamey Johnson, adds in the element of protest against the capitalist straight life. “The Songwriters,” co-written by another soft-spoken country veteran, Bill Anderson, offers a bit of gloating about the bohemian life. “Guitar in the Corner” acknowledges the darker times, when inspiration doesn’t come.

Nelson, who recently turned 81, lets his voice wobble at times, which mostly adds pathos. But his phrasing remains the best — not only in country, but arguably in all of popular music. No one drifts as purposefully as Willie Nelson when he’s letting a melody settle in his bones. His voice is the thought process personified. The players and longtime producer (and co-writer) Buddy Cannon give that voice plenty of room on Band of Brothers, letting it shape arrangements that contrast with most mainstream country the way a clear evening sky contrasts with a crowded nightscape of electronic billboards.

The thing about Nelson inhabiting that Yoda role is that he refuses to make it a cliché. The man possesses actual wisdom — the musical kind, more than anything, but the philosophical kind, too. Band of Brothers is a gift to all of us who look to Nelson for impeccable craft and tender insight. Sage? Sure. Here, though, he’s also wonderfully relatable.

Willie Nelson’s, “Band of Brothers” #1 on Billboard

Sunday, June 29th, 2014
by: Mac Randall

What does an 81-year old country music legend do to keep life interesting for himself? Go back to something he’s good at: writing songs. This is, astonishingly, the first Willie Nelson album to be dominated by self-penned material since the one-two punch of “Spirit” and “Teatro,” released more than 15 years ago. Less astonishingly, it’s his best work by far since then, almost completely free of the questionable song choices and duet overloads that marred his albums in the intervening years. (Sure enough, the sole duet here, with Jamey Johnson on a cover of Billy Joe Shaver’s “The Git Go,” is also the weakest track, despite its warm, wizened gospel-blues vibe.)

Right from the first few jaunty seconds of the opener, “Bring It On” — the wailing harmonica, the swooping pedal steel and the wry initial couplet, “They say there is no gain without pain/Well, I must be gaining a lot” — “Band of Brothers” bears all the marks of an old-fashioned country gem. The nine new originals (out of 14 total tracks) are sharp and often hilarious. “Wives and Girlfriends” is practically a three-minute stand-up routine, while “I Thought I Left You” compares an ex-lover to measles and whooping cough against the backdrop of a stately ballad.

Willie Nelson Scores First No. 1 On Top Country Albums In 28 Years

Nelson’s casually conversational singing, with its sudden drops into the bass register and unmistakable natural tremolo, is as good as it has ever been, and the same goes for his ragged but right mariachi-jazz guitar solos. In his ninth decade, this Texas troubadour still is making music that can match anything in his long, distinguished catalog.

read entire article here.

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Willie Nelson’s Magic

Friday, June 27th, 2014


Buddy Cannon, left, and Willie Nelson co-wrote nine of the 14 songs on Nelson’s new, Cannon-produced “Band of Brothers” album.(Photo: Photo by Glen Rose)
by: Peter Cooper

 Buddy Cannon, esteemed Nashville songwriter, musician and producer, got up one morning in 2011 and noticed he’d received a text message while slumbering.

The text said “Roll me up and smoke me when I die.”

Its sender was a fellow named Willie Nelson.

“I got out of bed, picked my phone up and that text was there, and I laughed my (posterior) off,” Cannon says. “Since then, we’ve written probably 25 songs together by texting back and forth.”

How do you write a song with 81-year-old Country Music Hall of Famer Willie Nelson? It helps to have a good mobile plan. Cannon has never been in the same room with Nelson to write a song, but the two co-wrote nine of the 14 songs on the new, Cannon-produced “Band of Brothers” album. That album just made its debut atop the “Billboard” country albums chart.

“I’ll get up, look at my phone and there’ll be a text from him, with a verse or some lines,” Cannon says. “I’ll start tweaking and adding, and we’ll pass it back and forth. When it looks like it’s where we ought to be, we hum a melody to teach each other over the phone. Then he has me go in and cut a track, and he comes in and sings it and plays guitar.”

Easy enough, then. At least for Cannon. For the rest of us, it’s tougher to get Willie’s cell phone number than it would be to get a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your point-of-view) inhalation of Willie’s favorite herb. But Willie trusts Buddy, and has since 2007, when Nelson added a vocal to  Kenny Chesney’s version of the Cannon-produced classic “Lucky Old Sun.”

“He came in and did his vocal, and I made a rough mix and sent it to him,” Cannon says. “A couple of days later, he called my cell and said, ‘Hey, Buddy, this is Willie. That’s the best version I’ve ever heard on that song. Let’s find some songs and go make a record.’ ”

And so Cannon and Chesney produced Nelson’s 2008 album “Moment of Forever,” which included gems from the pens of Kris Kristofferson, Randy Newman, Guy Clark, Gary Nicholson, Bob Dylan and Paul Craft, among others.

Cannon has been working with Nelson ever since, blending Nelson’s acoustic guitar and longtime Nelson cohort Mickey Raphael’s harmonica with session honchos including drummer Eddie Bayers, bass man Kevin “Swine” Grantt and steel guitarists Mike Johnson and Tommy White.

“Every time he sings a song, he does something spectacular,” Cannon says. “The magic of Willie is his phrasing and his choice of notes. Nobody else on the planet does what he does. But you have to let him do it. I’ve seen people start trying to give him direction, and he’s apt to walk out the door, get on his bus and leave.”

Nelson doesn’t skip out on Cannon-produced sessions. They’ve done five albums together, and Cannon recently accompanied Nelson on a northeast trip to do television appearances in support of “Band of Brothers.” Cannon has grown comfortable around his text-happy friend, but Nelson is also a hero to Cannon, who has worked with industry honchos including Chesney, Vern Gosdin, Mel Tillis and Jamey Johnson.

“Recording with him is the ultimate,” Cannon says. “The first memory I have of him was driving around in Chicago in the 1960s and hearing his versions of ‘Columbus Stockade Blues’ and ‘Home in San Antone’ on the radio. The phrasing was so out there that it hooked me.”

These days, Cannon doesn’t have to check the radio to hear from Nelson. He can usually just check his text messages, and find lines such as “Bring it on,” “Wives and girlfriends” and “I thought I left you.” Lately, the texts are coming fast.

“We’ve got a record that just came out, and Willie’s head is already in the next album,” Cannon says. “Sometimes, he’ll send me a lyric where I can’t figure out what he’s talking about. One, he sent me a year ago, and I’m still trying to figure out what he’s saying. I dig it out and look at it a lot because I know there’s something there.”

Willie Nelson & Family at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts at Lindenwood (Oct. 10, 2014)

Thursday, June 26th, 2014
by: Kevin C. Johnson

The J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts at Lindenwood University is stepping up its game for its 2014-15 season.

The St. Charles venue is bringing in Willie Nelson, Jay Leno, Amy Grant and the Beach Boys, among other names. Other bookings include Bernadette Peters, the National Acrobats of China, the Russian National Ballet Theatre and the national tour of “Peter & the Starcatcher.”

Some of the more high-profile concert bookings such as Leno and Nelson come as the result of a new partnership with longtime concert and special events company Contemporary Productions. The bookings look to raise the venue’s profile from one that caters to Branson-friendly acts. The goal is also to appeal more to students.

“We’re rolling out the greatest lineup ever,” Lindenwood University president Dr. James Evans said Wednesday at a press conference.

Steve Schankman, president of Contemporary Productions, said the acts may have performed in St. Louis before, but never within the intimate confines of the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts, which seats 1,200 people.

“Any act can appear on this large, massive stage. And artists who’ve played here want to come back,” Schankman said.

The venue opened in 2008 with Liza Minnelli. Martin Short, the Lennon Sisters, Tony Orlando and Dawn, and Wayne Newton are among the acts to have performed there in the past.

Here’s the 2014-15 schedule:

• Jay Leno: Live at Lindenwood, Sept. 12

• Dick Fox’s Golden Boys starring Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell, Sept. 27

• Willie Nelson & Family, Oct. 10

• “Oklahoma!,” Oct. 30-Nov. 1

• Christmas With Amy Grant, Dec. 7

• The National Acrobats of China, Dec. 13

• “Home for the Holidays” with the Erin Bode Group featuring the Children’s Choir of the St. Charles School District, Dec. 19

• The Russian National Ballet Theatre: “Cinderella,” Jan. 24

• An Evening With Bernadette Peters, Feb. 7

• The Beach Boys: “Take Your Valentine to the Beach!” Feb. 14

• “Peter & the Starcatcher” national tour, May 2

• The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, May 23-24

Online pre-sale begins July 14; single ticket sales begin July 21. Subscriber renewal begins July 1. Go to
Kevin C. Johnson is the popular music critic and nightlife reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at kevincjohnson and add him on Facebook at kevincjohnsonstl.

Willie Nelson remembers Vancouver, WA

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014


Legendary singer/songwriter Willie Nelson poses in 1957 as “Texas Willie” for a publicity photo that was used to promote his “Western Express” radio show on KVAN in Vancouver.
by: Stover E. Harger III,

During Willie Nelson’s time in Vancouver in the late 1950s, he was a “cotton-pickin’, snuff-dippin’, tobacca-chewin’, stump-jumpin’, gravy-soppin’, coffee-pot-dodgin’, dumplin-eatin’, frog-giggin’, hillbilly from Hill County, Texas.”

That was how legendary singer-songwriter introduced himself every day on his “Western Express” radio show on KVAN, broadcast from Vancouver. After becoming a star as a teenage disc jockey in his birthplace of Texas, Nelson hit the road and settled for a few years in Vancouver.

Nelson, who wrote classic songs such as “Crazy” and “On the Road Again,” reminisced about his time as a DJ in the Pacific Northwest during a visit this month to Howard Stern’s satellite radio show. As a 23-year-old, Nelson became a hit on the local airwaves; he even had his own fan club, he told Stern and his millions of SiriusXM listeners.

“Those were the days when you could go in and grab a handful of records and sit down and have your own show, play what you want,” Nelson said. He had to correct Stern when the radio host mistakenly said Nelson was a Portland DJ.

“Vancouver, Wash., right across the river,” Nelson corrected.

If you’ve been around a few years, you might recall three portraits of Nelson painted on the side of 704 Main St. as a reminder of the superstar who once walked the same streets. Those murals have since been painted over.

Nelson’s second daughter was born in Vancouver and he bought his first home here. His mom lived in Portland.

Nelson got $40 a week for his daily show, which eventually ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It wasn’t huge money — $40 in the mid-1950s is about $350 in today’s dollars — but Nelson said it was a platform to promote his gigs and hawk his early recordings.

The outlaw country star recorded his first single, “No Place For Me,” using the station’s equipment, eventually selling about 3,000 copies. His star was quickly rising, so Nelson demanded a steep raise, which didn’t go over so well. He quit and it was, yes, on the road again.

His career really took off after he left Vancouver and immersed himself in the country music scene, first as a successful songwriter and then as a performer.

On KVAN, Nelson made a few extra bucks by using the airwaves to promote concerts for other performers, he told Stern, though he never got any big “payola” payoffs, an illegal practice of paying for airplay that was common in the burgeoning rock ‘n’ roll era.

“I was looking for the payola, but I never got any,” Nelson laughed.

Now, nearly 60 years later, the 81-year-old Nelson is still at it; last week, he released “Band of Brothers,” his 48th full-length album.

Though he was only a temporary Vancouver resident, Nelson has fond memories of his time in the Northwest. Before his concert in Portland in 1980, Nelson spent hours on his tour bus chatting with friends Leo and Marcie Erickson. Leo was an engineer on KVAN when Nelson was there and the two bonded. At the Portland show, according to a Columbian article from that time, Nelson wore Leo’s cowboy hat on stage and gave a special shout-out to his “two old friends” from Vancouver.

Nelson gave back to his former home in 2007 with a $40,000 donation to Vancouver following a concert at the Sleep Country Amphitheater.