Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

Willie Country (December 1986)

Saturday, December 1st, 2018


Willie Country
By Don Holland

Howdy! Willie Nelson came to Abbott on Wednesday, December 3, and it was not so long before he was surrounded by a lot of friends and fans who turned out to greet him. Willie was accompanied by his sister Bobbie who plays the piano when they perform with the band. They had come to Abbott to shoot some publicity photos to be used on the cover of a gospel music album that will be released in the future. The reason why they came to Abbott is to have the photos taken in front of the Methodist Church that Willie and Bobbie attended when growing up here in Abbott.

Willie and Bobbie were dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting finest. You can see for yourself how sharp they looked in the photos that have been placed on various pagers of the paper.


Rev. Wayne Dunson, the present preacher at the Methodist Church, is the same one that preached there when Willie and Bobbie attended in their youth. He was in the area when Willie and Bobbie showed up and asked me to take a photo of him and Willie. “But, he whispered in my ear, I need to go over and change my coat before you take the picture. I don’t think it would look right with Willie looking more like a preacher than I do.”


Yours truly really enjoyed seeing Willie in Abbott. He had come through town several times during the past month or so and I was always out of town and missed him. Again, true to form, I was out of town, but Jan got on the telephone and had me located in Waco. My brother Ben found me as the screen printers where I was picking up some new T-shirts of Willie as the Red Headed Stranger, and got the message to me. I returned to Abbott immediately and was able to get the photos that you see in this issue.


While chatting with Willie, I asked him whether the movie entitled “The Red Headed Stranger” would be released. He said, “Plans are made to release it February 19, 1987.” So all of you fans stay on the lookout for the movie and remember you can get tee shirts and pictures of Willie as the Red Headed Stranger right here through the Souvenir Shop, either in person or by mail order.

Some of you no doubt read about the Susie Nelson Show that we had booked at the VFW Club in Cameron, Texas, this past November 15th. The show was very successful as the folks there enjoyed the music and singing of our stars Susie Nelson and her band and Chris Robbins with Stagecoach Symphony.

Several phoots that I took are included in thgis issue (page 7) for your eyeballs’ pleasure. Enjoy! Also, we appreciated a big fan of Willie’s coming to the show — Ann Willis of Temple. Ann showed me a lot of photos that she has taken around the countryside and we will try to run some of them in future editions.

Other recent visitors to Willie Nelson Country have come from Robards, Kentucky, Prag, Oklahoma; St. Joseph, Missouri; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Battle Creek, Michigan; Judsonia Arkansas; Jacksonville, Illionois; and Dallas, Garland, Red Oak, Mesquite, Austin, San Antonio, Temple Branson, Corsicana, Crossroads and Springtown, TX. Coming the longest distance was Lucas Wegmann from Newcastle, Main. We really enjoy meeting and visiting with Willie’s fans from all over the country!


British guitarist reacts to Willie Nelson’s SPELLBINDING delivery!

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

Willie Nelson & Family in Sugarland, TX (Nov. 25, 2018)

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

photo:  Violeta Alvarez
by:  Jesse Sandejas, Jr.

Willie Nelson & Family
Smart Financial Centre
November 25, 2018

Last week, we reserved an entire day to show gratitude to those who’ve made lasting and favorable impressions on our lives. When Thanksgiving Day ended, we started searching for gifts to celebrate those we honor. Getting to see Willie Nelson perform live last night at Smart Financial Centre was the perfect holiday season mashup. It was a chance for an appreciative crowd to thank the man for six decades of music. It was also a gift for many in the audience to see the legendary songwriter and his band perform live.

Nelson’s uniquely familiar visage was first visible to the audience at 8:20 p.m. and it earned him a standing ovation before he ever played a note. He beckoned everyone to be seated, then tossed his jacket off with abandon and grabbed his guitar, Trigger, whose place in music history is as entrenched as Nelson’s. The show opened with “Whiskey River” and everything to follow flowed quickly as a rushing stream. Nelson packed 20 songs into a set which ended promptly at 9:20 p.m. and it was an hour Nelson’s Houston fans would forever cherish.

The show sped along because there wasn’t much stage banter between Willie and the crowd. He didn’t offer extended monologues on all he’s experienced in a legendary music career or uncommon personal life. After all this time, what more is there really to say? Everything anyone needed to know was in the music and in the exchanges of thanks the artist and audience shared between songs.

The backdrop was a Texas flag, broad as the entire stage, there just in case you forgot where you were, which was impossible. Maybe “Good Hearted Woman” put you two-steppin’ in a honky tonk. Perhaps “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” recalled the time you and your buddies warbled it on the tailgate parking lot before the team from Dallas lined up against your Houston Texans. Did you recall a tender moment when Willie sang “You Were Always on My Mind”? Whatever memories the songs retrieved, those memories all sounded like they took place in Texas.

Nelson’s voice sounded fine. Before the show, lots of folks warned he doesn’t sing so much as he recites his lyrics these days. He did go the narrative route on a tune or two – particularly “On the Road Again,” on which the audience did much of the heavy lifting. But, he also sang a lot. His voice was eloquent on a moving rendition of “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” and he was downright jazzy on “Still Is Still Moving to Me.”

The show was definitely a country show, but Nelson’s lifelong affair with jazz was evident all night, if not so much in song arrangements then certainly in his playing. He and his sister, Bobbie (whom he proudly introduced as a recent Texas Music Hall of Fame inductee) moved from the honky tonk to a backwoods juke joint for Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages.” On that one, he let Trigger roam around a bit and everyone in the crowd was treated to the guitar’s one-of-a-kind tone. It was as signature a moment as Nelson playing something like “Crazy” or “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” – neither of which made last night’s set list. If omitting those meant more time for the Nelson siblings to trade jazzy inflections on their instruments of choice, the trade was absolutely worth it.

read entire article here



The business of Being Willie Nelson (Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1986)

Sunday, November 25th, 2018


photo:  Ron McKeown.

November 25, 1986
By Wes Smith

After completing 115 holes of video golf in little more than 9 hours, executive W.H. Nelson put aside his toys and directed the driver of his mobile office to roll.

As chief executive officer of Red-headed Stranger Ltd., president of Farm Aid Inc., owner of the Pedernales Country Club, board member for the United Theological Seminary and honorary “Man of the Year“ for the United Jewish Appeal, it was time for Nelson to entertain a client or two, or three- or four-thousand

“My portfolio?” asked the boss with a toss of his auburn pony-tail. “I never wear one.”

There is no business like the business of being Willie Nelson. By no stretch of the headband is Nelson a baron of Wall Street. But with an annual income estimated conservatively at $15 million, Nelson himself is a big business deal.

Since “Williemania” struck in full force in the late 1970s, Nelson, 53, has become a one-man entertainment industry. He is a successful singer-songwriter-actor-author-record and movie-producer and Farm Aid fund-raiser. Look for his autobiography (“I wanted to do it before someone else did it”) and his own brand of soup to be introduced in coming months.

Although royalties from his songs pay Nelson enough for a comfortable life, record sales are now his main producer of revenue. His “Stardust”
album is still on the charts after seven years and climbing again as result of compact disc sales. Two of Nelson`s albums have sold more than 3 million copies, three albums sold more than a million and 10 albums sold more than 500,000. He now gets $1 million for recording an album with CBS records plus 35 percent of sales.

To promote the album sales, and because he easily gets stir crazy, Nelson tours about nine months of the year, bringing in another $12 million annually. From that he nets about $6 million before his personal expenses. Last August, he signed a $7 million, three-year contract that allowed Blue Bell Inc., the maker of Wrangler jeans, to promote 100 of Nelson`s concerts annually and hand out front-seat tickets to Wrangler denim dealers at the shows, said Paul English, Nelson`s business manager, longtime friend and drummer.

Willie & Family, as the band is known, travel in four or five customized buses with two truckloads of equipment trailing behind. The Willie Nelson road show is a family operation with a country store flavor. Nelson shares his bus, the mahogany-paneled “Honeysuckle Rose,“ with his older sister Connie, who plays keyboards. English`s son, Darnell, is assistant road manager on the tour, and Billy English, Paul`s brother, is a percussionist. Most members of the band and road crew–which total about 30 including the T-shirt hawkers –have been with Nelson at least 10 years.

While Nelson uses his computer keyboard to play video golf for hours on end while touring, his road manager, lanky, long-haired David Anderson, takes care of the payroll, day-to-day logistics and communications for the tour on his own personal computer.

Anderson is a native of Park Ridge, Ill. (“We moved when I was 28-days-old.“) The 30-year-old road manager must fold his 6-foot-4 frame into a cramped workspace not much larger than a doghouse. His mobile office, tucked in a space under a bunk bed, is packed with an IBM XT personal computer and printer, a check writer, a 3M Fax machine, a Cannon copier, a modular phone system and an Uzi submachine gun “for security reasons.”

Willie Nelson, “My Way”

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

My Way Tracklist

  1. Fly Me To The Moon
  2. Summer Wind
  3. One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
  4. A Foggy Day
  5. It Was A Very Good Year
  6. Blue Moon
  7. I’ll Be Around
  8. Night And Day
  9. What Is This Thing Called Love (with Norah Jones)
  10. Young At Heart
  11. My Way

Since 1978, when he released the multiplatinum Stardust , his first collection of Great American Songbook standards, Willie Nelson has occasionally returned to that well of song material. He obviously has a great affection for this material and long ago found a way to adapt these classics to his unmistakable vocal style.

My Way tweaks the formula just a bit: These 11 selections were all recorded by Frank Sinatra, a friend of Nelson’s and, to no one’s surprise, Willie nails each and every one. Several of the chosen tracks are no-brainers: “Young at Heart,” “Night and Day” and “Fly Me to the Moon” are all so closely associated with Sinatra that it’s almost sacrilegious to hand them over to another singer. But like another pal of Willie’s, Bob Dylan, Nelson isn’t looking to emulate the Chairman, but rather to honor him.

A pair of compositions, “Summer Wind” and “It Was a Very Good Year,” were mid-‘60s hits for Sinatra during his Reprise Records era, and Nelson brings to them a depth of understanding and empathy. Other tunes—among them Mercer and Arlen’s “One for My Baby (And One for the Road)” and the Rodgers and Hart chestnut “Blue Moon”—are handled playfully but respectfully, while the Gershwins-penned “A Foggy Day” and Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” are naturals coming from this voice, almost as if he’s owned them all along.

As for the title track, it’s best sung by someone who truly has lived a lot of life.  This man has, and his tender but assured arrangement confirms that he could never do anything anyone else’s way. It’s a sheer delight.

Willie Nelson Leaves his Locks on the Cutting Room Floor

Thursday, November 15th, 2018


“It was just too hot,” says Willie Nelson of his shoulder length hair that made him country music’s mane man for most of the last decade.  So, having already shaved his beard for “Songwriter”, the current movie in which he co-stars with Kris Kristofferson, Willie woke up one morning and asked third wife Connie to invite his nephew’s wife, a hairdresser, to come over and un-lock him.  Alas, Willie’s newly scalped braids will never be displayed in the Smithsonian.  Willie had them trimmed a bit at a time.  The next day, even after he walked on stage at the Tennessee State Fair, most of the audience still seemed to be waiting for Willie Nelson.  But when they realized who the short-haired stranger was, they applauded.  “I guess the fans like it,” says Willie of the clean look.  “And the ones who don’t just don’t mention it, I guess.”

Willie Nelson, “My Way”

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

My Way Tracklist

  1. Fly Me To The Moon
  2. Summer Wind
  3. One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
  4. A Foggy Day
  5. It Was A Very Good Year
  6. Blue Moon
  7. I’ll Be Around
  8. Night And Day
  9. What Is This Thing Called Love (with Norah Jones)
  10. Young At Heart
  11. My Way
by:  Doug Freeman

Since 1978 blockbuster Stardust, Willie Nelson has maintained a consistent diligence to recording standards and tribute LPs, most at least worthwhile if not revelatory. Taking on Frank Sinatra with his latest homage platter, Nelson, 85, rightly doesn’t try matching the velvet richness of “The Voice,” but instead finds his own unique inroads to a well-trodden catalog.

The country sovereign’s immaculate phrasing, sincere handling of the songbook, and experienced vocal feel on the material find enough spectacular moments worth revisiting. The surprising Caribbean rhythm running under “It Was a Very Good Year,” downright jaunty take on “Blue Moon,” and always notable Norah Jones duet on “What Is This Thing Called Love” rise above, but the closing title track makes the album. Nelson works through “My Way” with an understated tenderness, the years on his voice seeping into the song like distinctly familiar but unplaceable aroma, and emerges triumphant without the overwrought bravado.

Willie Nelson, “Vote ’em Out”

Friday, October 26th, 2018

“The biggest gun we’ve got
Is called the ballot box.
So if you don’t like who’s in there
Vote ’em out.”

— Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson’s new single VOTE ‘EM OUT.   Available now:
by:  Randy Lewis

Like many celebrities, Willie Nelson is doing his bit to motivate fans to participate in the upcoming midterm elections.

But with his latest song, the veteran Texas maverick musician and country outlaw isn’t serving up some soft-sell public service announcement.

“If you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out,” he sings in the appropriately titled “Vote ’Em Out.” “That’s what Election Day is all about.”

The idea, he said, came to him in the course of talking with young people at a benefit for March for Our Lives in Maui in spring, where he performed with a longtime friend, singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson, and several other musicians.

“It was right after the Florida shootings, and a lot of young people out there were doing protests against the guns and all the lobbying and everything, and so we did this benefit over there,” Mr. Nelson, 85, said on his tour bus this week while in Hollywood to tape a segment for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” scheduled to air Tuesday.

“I was talking to the kids about well, you know, if you see something you don’t like out there, you vote ’em out of it,” he said. “I started thinking about it — It took about three minutes to write the whole thing.”

It’s aimed at all Americans, Mr. Nelson said, but he’s particularly focused on the population of young people who will vote for the first time next month.

“There’s a group of folks coming up to vote that ain’t never voted before, and they are very excited about it,” he said. “I think all the activity on both sides of the parties up there have shook ’em up a little bit. They’re saying, ‘Well, maybe we’re important,’ and, of course they are, and they’re going to go out there and prove it, I think.”

A few minutes later, backstage just after performing “Vote ‘Em Out!” for his segment on the show, Mr. Nelson met and spoke with Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was among the 17 people killed in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting — an emotional meeting for all concerned during which Mr. Nelson and Mr. Kimmel thanked Mr. Guttenberg for his activism.

“It don’t take aim at anybody,” Mr. Nelson said. “Whether you’re on one side or the other, whoever you want to vote in or out, it’s something to talk about. If you like who’s in there, leave ’em in. I think it’s important now to take a stand and vote.”

Mr. Nelson’s politics, however, are no secret.

He introduced the song a few weeks ago at a political rally in Texas for U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz. Such politicking, however, isn’t something Mr. Nelson typically does at his own shows.

“My shows are as nonpolitical as you can get,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re a Christian, an atheist, a Baptist or Methodist. I don’t care who you are or what you are: If you like our music, that’s cool. Come on out. We’re not going to bore you with politics. But right at this particular time, I think it might be a good time to say something.”

One reason Mr. Nelson avoids delving deeply into political issues at his shows is that he sees music as a unifying force in this era of extreme divisiveness and political partisanship.

“I’ve always believed that music was the equalizer, you know?” he said. “Everyone can relate to music. You don’t have a choice. Once you hear the melody and the words, it goes right into your soul, and you either like it or hate it, turn it on or turn it off, but you can’t ignore it.”

Some projects close to Mr. Nelson’s heart involve political issues. Those include the annual Farm Aid benefit shows in support of family farmers who struggle to survive in the age of agribusiness, and his budding operation selling medicinal and recreational marijuana under the brand name Willie’s Reserve. But he leaves the political dimensions of those operations to others.

“It’s something they have to deal with. I don’t have to deal with [anything],” he said.

Willie Nelson, “Waiting for the Miracle to Come” (premieres at Austin Film Festival TOMORROW)

Friday, October 26th, 2018
by:  Joe Leydon

More than three years after filming at various locations in and near Austin — including the preserved set of the fictional western town Luck on Willie Nelson’s ranch in Spicewood, Texas — Waiting for the Miracle to Come will have its long-awaited premiere Saturday and Monday, Oct. 27 and 29, at the Austin Film Festival.

The fanciful drama is the first dramatic feature written and directed by acclaimed documentarian Lian Lunson (Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, Willie Nelson: Down Home), and lists German director Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas) and Irish rocker Bono (who wrote a song for the soundtrack) as executive producers. And if that’s not enough to pique your interest, consider this: Willie Nelson stars in Waiting for the Miracle to Come opposite no less a notable than Charlotte Rampling, the celebrated British actress whose lengthy resume includes such outstanding films as Georgy Girl (1966), The Damned (1969), Zardoz (1974), The Verdict (1982), I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2003), and 45 Years (the 2015 drama for which she received an Oscar nomination as Best Actress).

And you know that song written by Bono? Nelson sings it during the film.

What’s it all about? According to the official synopsis: “Following the death of her father, aspiring trapeze artist Adeline Winter (Sophie Lowe) discovers a cryptic letter he once wrote directing her to a goldmine in a remote California desert. Upon arriving in a mysterious town, she finds herself at the gates of ‘The Beautiful Place,’ a house occupied by retired vaudeville stars Jimmy and Dixie Riggs (Nelson and Rampling). As she gets to know this mysteriously eccentric couple, Adeline discovers that her father’s posthumous words were directing her to a reward far more valuable than gold.”

Lunson says she wrote her script especially for Nelson, because “his presence and stillness as an actor is unlike anyone else’s. And growing up, I always wanted to be Charlotte Rampling, So bringing these two icons together on screen is a dream come true for me.”

During my brief conversation with Rampling on her final evening of filming in Spicewood, the actress praised Lunson for the audacious inventiveness of her casting choice. “It took someone with imagination, really, to think that we could be a couple — could be believable as a couple,” Rampling said. “And in fact, I think we are, you know? It’s really worked. There’s something special that happened. And that’s only when a director feels that this could happen between two people, do you know what I mean?

“That’s how directors are clever. The way they cast is really so important, because if you don’t have that chemistry, you can’t act it. You know, if you don’t actually, really feel that you’re connected to somebody, it’s difficult to act it. I mean, it’s always difficult to come across as connected to someone. But when it works, audiences feel very quickly that something’s truthful and real.”

The entire production of Waiting for the Miracle to Come was “a lovely experience,” Rampling said. “I had some truly beautiful scenes. I loved expressing Dixie’s fragility, I loved the singing — and I loved doing things with Willie because he’s such a special person, you know? He’s not an actor, so he’s very instinctive. He’s very natural. And in a way, this film was about that, too. There’s something very organic about this film.”

Willie Nelson offered his own take on Waiting for the Miracle to Come when we talked at the close of his own last day of filming.

Cowboys & Indians: OK, the last time we chatted a couple years back, you indicated that you didn’t really think much of yourself as an actor. Have you decided to change that appraisal?

Willie Nelson: [Laughs] No, no. My opinion hasn’t changed.

C&I: I’ve been on the set only a couple days, but it looked to me like you were really doing some good work out there.

Nelson: Yeah, I fooled you. Fooled you again.

C&I: You’ve worked with several outstanding directors, including Sydney Pollack, Michael Mann and Barry Levinson. What do you think is the most important lesson you were ever taught as an actor?

Nelson: To find your spot where you’re supposed to stand and remember your lines. If you do that you can’t go far wrong.

C&I: Anything else?

Nelson: I heard somebody say one time, “Don’t ever let them catch you acting.” I think that’s pretty good advice. If you can act without looking like you’re acting, maybe you’re doing something. Slim Pickens, I did a movie with him one time. And he told somebody in the press or something: “Willie Nelson plays himself better than anybody could.” That’s about it.

C&I: Director Lian Lunson says she wrote Waiting for the Miracle to Come with you specifically in mind.

Nelson: That’s always flattering when something like that happens. But it’s still a challenge to make sure that they didn’t make a mistake thinking you could do something maybe you couldn’t do. This movie has been pretty easy really, for my part. I know the crews work from sunup to sundown many days, but it’s been relatively easy for me because I live right up the street here.

C&I: No long commutes?

Nelson: No, I just drive down the hill and do my lines and go back. It’s a perfect way to do a movie for me.

C&I: I have to admit that when I first heard you were co-starring in a movie with Charlotte Rampling, I thought, well, that’s certainly offbeat casting. But now that I’ve seen the two of you doing a few scenes together, I find myself thinking: “Of course! Why didn’t someone think of this before?”

Nelson: Yeah, I guess that’s where Lian comes in. She can think of those things. Like, “Well, if I put these together, it’ll be a good mix and they’ll work out something.” She’s good at that.

C&I: How would you describe the experience of acting opposite Charlotte Rampling?

Nelson: It’s always a pleasure to be working with a professional you know and have known for years. She is a professional, so you didn’t expect anything less from her. She was fantastic and that was what we expected.

 C&I: What was the most difficult part of playing your character, Jimmy Riggs? What was the toughest nut for you to crack?

 Nelson: [Looking at his feet] These bleeping shoes.

C&I: Are they really that bad?

Nelson: They’re uncomfortable [Laughs] No, they’re not that bad. It’s just something to bitch about. Just kidding. As I said, I can’t play anybody but myself. So this was an easy role to play, really.

C&I: Finally, what was the most enjoyable part of making this movie? Besides the short commute?

Nelson: Working with people like Charlotte, Lian, and [co-star] Sophie Lowe. And this whole crew — these guys are great. It’s always nice when you see something working. As Leanne said, we’re waiting for a miracle. And we’re seeing them every day out here.


Billy Bob’s Ticket Glitch Fixed

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Photo:  Ben Noey

Fans of Willie Nelson who have already bought tickets to the singer’s November shows at Billy Bob’s Texas may have been surprised — or even worried — on Thursday when they received a refund for their tickets.

But the Nov. 16-17 shows are still on. The ticketing system inadvertently refunded all ticket buyers. But that was a glitch.

“The system should be back up soon and reinstate all of the tickets and the buyers will have their same seats,:” Pam Minick, vice president of marketing for Billy Bob’s, says in an email. “We’re asking them to be patient and check BBT social media for updates.”

Billy Bob’s is on Facebook at @BillyBobsTexas, and also on Twitter at @BillyBobsTexas.

Willie Nelson, songwriter

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

Willie Nelson says he can’t stop writing songs.

The 85-year-old country music legend has been in the music business for decades but isn’t even thinking about retiring, because even though he has moments where he doesn’t want to “write another song”, ideas keep coming to him.

He said: “I think there’s some things that can only come out in songs. You can write a beautiful book, but take verses out of it and put a melody to it and you’ve got another dimension.

“I wrote something the other day that said, ‘I don’t want to write another song, but tell that to my mind!’ I just throw them out there and try to make them rhyme.’ I write everywhere, anywhere. I write a lot at home at night.”

The ‘Always On My Mind’ hitmaker thinks in lyrics first and then adds the music afterwards, as he believes songs are just “poems with a melody”.

He added: “Usually it starts as a poem. At some point I’ll get up and go get the guitar and see what kind of melody those words suggest.”

He said: “I thought everything that happened there was unforgivable. We have a statue that says: ‘Y’all come in.’ I don’t believe in closing the border. Open them suckers up!

“We need those folks. I used to pick cotton and pull corn and bale hay and I’m lucky to play guitar now, but we have to have the people who want to work, and take care of them.”

The ‘On the Road Again’ singer averages 150 days on the road in a year, and says he loves travelling the country as it lets him soak in the differences between each US state.

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, he said: “I’ve moved around a lot in 85 years. And I went through a lot of political spaces in our country – four years of this, eight years of that.”

Willie Nelson & Family at the Chelsea in Las Vegas (October 19th, 2018)

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

by: Brock Radke

Willie Nelson’s rescheduled concert dates (from January) at the Cosmopolitan’s blank-canvas venue the Chelsea were quite a bit different from his February 2017 shows at the Venetian. The now 85-year-old legend had to cancel a few shows last year due to illness as well but bounced back to thrill an appreciative audience. Inside the Chelsea Friday night, he strummed his ancient guitar Trigger and rolled through classic Texas tunes as expected but provided ample time for his son to shine throughout the night.

During an opening set of his own tunes — including several from last year’s “Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real” studio album — the 29-year-old Lukas Nelson did more than wake up a Vegas crowd anxious to see and hear his famous father. He effortlessly won the audience over, especially with the bluesy ballad “Find Yourself” and its invigorating chorus, “I know the love that I deserve.”

Once Willie arrived onstage with rousing standard “Whiskey River,” it became a true family affair, thanks to “Little Sister” Bobbie Nelson’s piano and younger son Micah’s steady percussion. Lukas traded guitar licks with his dad on several songs before grabbing the spotlight again for a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood,” a big-time blues bomb flush with soulful harmonica from longtime band member and producer Mickey Raphael.

Lukas’ presence wasn’t the only change from last year’s Venetian shows. Willie also deftly covered Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” without making it sound like an obligatory Vegas offering, injecting that unique tenderness that sets his iconic voice apart. There was more emotion, of course, for “Georgia on My Mind,” and then after a fun trip through “Still Not Dead,” he was done. A little more than an hour of music would have to be enough on this night and no one was complaining.

Willie Nelson cancels Nov. 14th show in Panama City, FL, following effects of Hurricane Michael

Saturday, October 20th, 2018
Willie Nelson show has cancelled the Marina Civic Center on November 14:

Due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Michael across the panhandle of Florida, the Willie Nelson concert scheduled to play at the Marina Civic Center on Wednesday, November 14 has been cancelled.

The show will play in Montgomery, AL at The Montgomery Performance Arts Centre on the same day. Our thoughts and prayers are with residents of the panhandle at this time.

Tickets purchased for the Marina Civic Center performance can be refunded at the point of purchase.

Willie Nelson, “Funny How Time Slips Away”

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018
by:  Patrick Doyle

At his show at Forest Hills Stadium this summer, Willie Nelson did something unusual: He played his classic “Funny How Time Slips Away” in full. Regulars of his shows might have noticed that he usually plays a short version of the 1961 song as part of a medley alongside “Night Life” and “Crazy,” but because he was playing a shorter set, he decided to drop some other songs and switch things up. “I like to keep it in [my set] if I can,” he told Rolling Stone afterward.

The performance was reminiscent of another excellent version: In 1997, Austin City Limits threw a songwriter special with several old-school legends: Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Porter Wagoner, Mel Tillis, Billy Joe Shaver, Ralph Emery, Mickey Gilley, Bobby Bare, Kimmie Rhodes and more. It was intimate and full of moving moments, like Kristofferson opening up about a profound religious experience that led him to write “Why Me Lord.”

But one musical performance stood out — Willie picking up his guitar, Trigger, and playing “Funny How Time Slips Away.” He wrote the song during a dark period, when he was living in Houston in the early Sixties, working as a radio DJ, trying to support his family. By the time of this performance, he’d played the song thousands of times. But it quickly became clear that this was not a normal performance. “Well, hello there,” Nelson sang, hitting a dissonant chord that he quickly resolved, launching into a performance that perfectly combined his unique phrasing and acoustic jazz escapades (listen to the solo). In the clip, you can see the effect of the performance: Kristofferson has tears in his eyes; Shaver moved in deep meditation.

Nelson just released a new song, “Vote ‘Em Out,” and will bring his Outlaw Music Festival to L.A.’s Hollywood Bowl this Sunday, playing alongside Phil Lesh & Friends, Sturgill Simpson, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Margo Price, Particle Kid and more.

Willie Nelson, family and friends at Outlaw Music Festival at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (9/23/2018)

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Outlaw Fest Breaking All the Rules at SPAC
Article and photos by:  Jim Gilbert

It must be illegal to have so much talent on one stage, but Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Fest broke all the rules at Saratoga Performing Arts Center Sunday, September 23, 2018. From keeping SPAC open past August to country singers crooning about open-mindedness and love, Outlaw Fest challenged all the norms you might expect at a country music fest.

The concert opened in the afternoon with Nelson’s youngest, Micah Nelson whose band is titled “Particle Kid.” Sounding like a Green Day alternative band, Particle Kid’s heavy bass, melodic whistling, and guitar changes made by a stagehand wearing an astronaut helmet lent a fun feel to the afternoon. Nelson’s words to his third song, “I’m in love with the ocean / Does the ocean love me back?” aptly demonstrates the depth of the lyrics and vibe of the performance. Particle Kid was yearning, stretching, and laughing a bit too during the set.

Lucas Nelson and the Promise of the Real followed. Lucas is Micah’s older brother and a favorite in both music and films at present. His band, The Promise of the Real, lives up to its name. The musicians played guitar solos beautifully between songs, lending a lovely transition. Lyrics about turning off the news and raising kids to be more hopeful were running themes. Lucas at one point voiced that “Trust builds trust,” and the crowd cheered. There was both a hopefulness and a musicianship that was reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s works in the 1970s, both in representing themes around peace, nature, and love and musicians tackling more challenging blends and chords. When Lucas vocalized, “I believe every heart is kind / some are underused,” the crowd cheered and shared optimism back with the singer.

Nathaniel Rattliff and The Night Sweats quickly took the stage next, with very little downtime between performers. The band channeled Johnny Cash old style sound, producing a wall of music complete with blaring trumpets, tenor sax, and drums. The high energy, hand clapping, the brass screaming sound had the crowd on its feet. The bass was so heavy the screens on either side of the stage were vibrating, and Rattliff’s Baptist church voice brought almost a revival feel to SPAC. Rattliff and the Night Sweats sustained this energy for over an hour of blues, swing, and country feel, peaking with high energy and joyfulness on the faces of the musicians and fans alike.

After this fevered pitch, Sturgill Simpson took the stage with a much heavier, rock country sound that prompted many in the crowd to request earbuds Sturgill is a southern rocker, and there was no apology to how he added noodling and long jams within his set. While different from those before and after him at the festival, Sturgill was fiercely loyal to his own sound and had integrity within his set too, representing his beliefs about keeping an open mind in a genre that doesn’t always celebrate diversity and cognitive flexibility.

Nathaniel Rattliff and The Night Sweats quickly took the stage next, with very little downtime between performers. The band channeled Johnny Cash old style sound, producing a wall of music complete with blaring trumpets, tenor sax, and drums. The high energy, hand clapping, the brass screaming sound had the crowd on its feet. The bass was so heavy the screens on either side of the stage were vibrating, and Rattliff’s Baptist church voice brought almost a revival feel to SPAC. Rattliff and the Night Sweats sustained this energy for over an hour of blues, swing, and country feel, peaking with high energy and joyfulness on the faces of the musicians and fans alike.

After this fevered pitch, Sturgill Simpson took the stage with a much heavier, rock country sound that prompted many in the crowd to request earbuds Sturgill is a southern rocker, and there was no apology to how he added noodling and long jams within his set. While different from those before and after him at the festival, Sturgill was fiercely loyal to his own sound and had integrity within his set too, representing his beliefs about keeping an open mind in a genre that doesn’t always celebrate diversity and cognitive flexibility.

The crowd would have to wait for Neil Young and the Promise of the Real to take the stage, but it was totally worth the wait. Lucas and Micah Nelson joined Young, who was clad in a flannel, jeans, and old felt hat. Young’s positive connection with Lucas and Micah has clearly energized him; after a brief “How ya doin’?” Young jumped right in with tunes from his entire career. Young is a star in his own right; many in the crowd traveled to SPAC just to see him perform. “Heart of Gold” was so well received by the crowd that they seemed to be moving as one heart, swaying and singing. Young would dance and lean into guitar player Lucas Nelson, laughing and jumping like a much younger man.

Willie Nelson concluded the festival, crooning his love songs accompanied by his sister and sons. Rattcliff came on stage for a song, and Young joined for two songs too. Nelson seemed to speak some of the lyrics more than sing them, but no love was lost between him and his fans. As the night took on a cool September chill, fans stayed in abundance to cheer on their well loved favorite country star.

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Outlaw Fest Breaking All the Rules at SPAC