Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

Willie Nelson art wins Best of Show in Lubbock

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

by:  Ashlyn Tubbs

When walking through the South Plains Fair Art Show, one particular painting tends to turn heads. It’s the details – the calculated wrinkles and eye twinkles that make fairgoers stop in their tracks.

The portrait is framed in the Golden Age group display, for artists over 65 years old, but the artist who painted this piece, “Marti” Martinez, is defying all odds at age 68.

“It’s a painting of Willie Nelson, an oil painting, and I decided to enter it,” Martinez said. “I really don’t know about the techniques…I just do it. It took me about two weeks to do it.”

Martinez barely made the deadline to enter the competition.

“I couldn’t do it at the house, because I have too many grandkids around,” he said. “So, I went to my mom’s house and finished it about an hour and a half before I got it here.”

But that’s only one of the many challenges Martinez has faced.

“I started doing pencil art while I was in Vietnam,” he said. “When I had time…and I wasn’t getting shot at.”

After Martinez returned from his service, he took art courses in college, but there were more challenges to come.

Ten years ago, Martinez said he was painting a wall mural for a local business when 480 volts went through him.

“I used to do all their artwork,” he said, “and I got electrocuted.”

“I had to come back with a lot of therapy to get my artwork back,” he said. “I was like a little kid, the drawings that I did after the electrocution…it wasn’t me.”

Martinez had to relearn everything.

“I had brain damage,” he said, “and it took me a while to get it back.”

But with hard work and dedication, he managed to create his next painting – a portrait of an Indian that took him over a year to complete.

“It’s something that I want to do,” Martinez said. “I’m getting to the age where I don’t want to have anything else to do but that. I’m 68 right now, so that’s about all I can do.”

His next painting was of a group of horses, based on a historical carving.

“I’ve entered [the] two of them at the fair,” he said, “and they’ve gotten best of show also and first place.”

Martinez jokes that “he’s back”, and this time he hopes it is for good.

“Now that I’m out of hard times, I can bring it back every year if they want me to,” he said.

KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Willie Nelson & Family clouse out the Pilgrimage Festival (9/27/15)

Monday, September 28th, 2015

by:  Juli Thanki

The first Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival featured a lot of top-notch musical talent, but no one captivated the crowd like music legend Willie Nelson, who closed the Franklin-based festival in style Sunday night.

As the setting sun cast an orange glow over the Midnight Sun stage on Harlinsdale Farm, Nelson and his longtime backing band, The Family, began their 75-minute set with his trademark opener, “Whiskey River.” He followed that song with one classic after another, and the audience sang along with every word, from “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” to an uptempo version of “Good Hearted Woman” to the rollicking “On the Road Again.” Midway through his performance, Nelson paid tribute to Hank Williams with playful renditions of “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “Jambalaya” and “Move It On Over,” then ended his show with Williams’ “I Saw the Light.”

Nelson also played a couple of his newer songs: “It’s All Going to Pot” (a duet on “Django and Jimmie,” his recent album with Merle Haggard) and 2012’s “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” (also the title of one of his books) were the ones that got the biggest crowd reaction.

He didn’t waste a minute of his time slot, simply uttering, “Thank you; I hear you” after a song before launching into another one. At 82 Nelson has been in the music business for more than half a century. He still tours exhaustively and releases albums regularly. Like his beloved guitar and longtime musical sidekick, Trigger, Nelson’s a little worn around the edges after thousands of shows and millions of miles; however, he remains a consummate performer with an unparalleled body of work. Long live Willie.

Willie Nelson & Family at Innsbruck (9/23/15)

Friday, September 25th, 2015


photo: Anjie Kay
by:  Hays Davis

A festival-size crowd gathered at Innsbrook Wednesday night for one of music’s true living legends. And as much as Willie Nelson’s performance pleased his fans with a number of long-loved hits, it was also a display of what has shaped him as an artist over the years.

Just watching Nelson play Trigger, the battered acoustic guitar that has defined his sound since the turn of the ’60s, was a treat. These were moments where the player and his beloved instrument seemed like a genuine partnership, as Nelson plucked with a pick at a guitar intended for finger-picking and produced something distinctive. “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” was a memorable example as well as an audience favorite.

Nelson’s Family, his band for nearly as long as he’s carried Trigger, is still his ideal set of musicians after 40-plus years. Featuring sister Bobbie Nelson on piano, harmonicist Mickey Raphael, and drummer Paul English, they brought life to oft-heard staples such as “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” as well as the driving “Still Is Still Moving to Me,” with its Spanish accents.

The night’s multifaceted setlist naturally showcased Nelson’s acclaimed work as a writer, reaching back over 50 years for “Crazy” and toward more recent hits such as 2003’s “Beer for My Horses.” But his talents as an interpreter also accounted for some of the show’s high points, and he was in fine voice for creations from Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, and Tom T. Hall. The audience’s collective swoon was audible with the opening words of “Always on My Mind.”

Not surprisingly, some of the night’s biggest responses went to rousing tunes like “Whiskey River” and “On the Road Again,” and the crowd cracked up as Nelson announced, “Here’s a new gospel song we wrote called ‘Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.’” And as the band moved into actual gospel tunes such as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and “I’ll Fly Away,” Nelson made them sound like his own. For a master at work, it’s a gift that he can make that personal stamp seem so effortless.

“We’re glad to get to know you,” said Michael Hall, singer-guitarist for the opening band Levon. “We’ve been drinking with you all night.”

With that declaration, the Nashville-based trio drew in the crowd earlier that evening with a sound driven by two acoustic guitars, electric bass, and recorded loops of percussion. The recent Epic Records/Sony Nashville signees offered a set of upbeat originals and, as self-professed fans of ’70s sounds, a few covers from that decade. They were also as buzzed about opening for Willie Nelson as they were from the evening’s refreshments.

Turning his cell phone toward the crowd, Hall said, “I want to document this. This is the greatest moment of my life.”

Bet he says that to all the Willie audiences.

Becoming a Willie Nelson fan, by Ben Noey, Jr.

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015


photo: Ben Noey, Jr.
Willie Nelson  South Park Meadows in Austin, Texas July 4, 1984.

See more of Ben Noey, Jr.’s photos here.

by: Ben Noey

My appreciation for Willie Nelson came almost as an accident.

In the early ’70s, I was very much a disciple of Leon Russell, the gravelly voiced pianist and singer-songwriter who played with just about everyone on the planet, from Joe Cocker to George Harrison to Ray Charles.

I bought Leon’s albums, went to his concerts and wore his T-shirts. I watched him on film during the Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour and the Concert for Bangladesh. For me, Leon was the music man.

So when I heard, in the summer of 1973, that he might be playing in a field near Austin with Willie Nelson, I just had to find my way to Dripping Springs. I knew a little about Willie, the old guy who played Whiskey River to hippies, but more importantly, I’d seen the Woodstock movie. And I didn’t want to miss that communal music experience right here in Texas.

First, I’d have to sell my mom on the idea. Some of my friends went to the first Kerrville Music Festival in 1972, but she wouldn’t let me go. I’m not sure what changed in a year, but somehow I persuaded her that this July 4, 1973, trip was the most important opportunity in my young life.

And so at age 15, there I was, walking in a dusty field toward a stage where I’d see Willie Nelson play live for the first time. Little did I know it would be the beginning of a four-decade long relationship with the American musical icon and his picnic, which would become a Texas-soaked soundtrack for the Fourth of July.

That first show in Dripping Springs was hot and crowded. Leon was there; so was Kris Kristofferson. Willie was having a blast, and it was contagious. I’d seen my share of concerts, but never like this with so many folks having so much fun — outdoors!

I decided right then and there that if this happened again, I would be there

photo: Ben Joey, Jr.

And it did happen again. In 1974, Willie hosted the Fourth of July Picnic, a three-day celebration in College Station at the Texas World Speedway, where Richard Petty had won a race the previous summer. We parked in a field of grass dried by the Texas heat and walked through a tunnel under the track. When we emerged, we saw a massive stage with Willie’s name and picture painted on the background. This year, I was going to record a little of the fun with photos and a Super 8 movie camera.

My hero, Leon, strolled the stage between sets and acted as emcee, ushering onstage Augie Meyers, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Steve Fromholz, Rusty Wier, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jerry Jeff Walker, Waylon Jennings, Michael (before he was Martin) Murphey, Jimmy Buffett and, of course, Willie.

NBC was filming a Midnight Special, so there were occasional breaks for camera movement and Wolfman Jack segments.

A fire started in the field of cars where we’d parked. I broke out the Super 8 and began my career as a journalist. I filmed the volunteer firefighters working alongside shirtless hippies trying to extinguish a Chevy station. The fire spread, but luckily, there didn’t seem to be any injuries.

In 1975, the picnic moved north a piece to Liberty Hill in Williamson County. Kristofferson reappeared with his wife, Rita Coolidge; Charlie Daniels fiddled his way into our hearts; and a Fort Worth favorite, Delbert McClinton, joined the fun. The Pointer Sisters were there, too, although I’m not sure why. We hurried to buy $5.50 advance tickets, which included overnight camping. (We didn’t want to have to pay $7.50 at the gate.)

As 1976 rolled around, Willie took his roadshow to Gonzales, the site of the first battle of the Texas Revolution. It’s also where I got my first taste of Shiner, which I later learned was made right down the highway.

The crowd was huge that year, and of course, it rained. It was muddy. Maybe Woodstock wasn’t so much fun after all. Soaked and discouraged, we got a motel room and watched the bicentennial events on TV — fireworks bursting above the newly refurbished Statue of Liberty and tall ships going by those two giant World Trade Center towers. Not bad at all.

It would be a few years before I’d make it back to the picnic, but in 1984, Willie rolled into South Park Meadows, right outside Austin. I applied for credentials to shoot photos and was granted a pass, plus one. I couldn’t find anyone to make the trip, so, more than a decade after I’d begged my mother to let me go to Dripping Springs, I invited her to see Willie for herself.

She was entranced by the crowd, the spectacle and, yes, the aromas. I’ll wager she was the only woman there in a knee-length denim skirt. Do you have a photo of your mom with 15,000 hipsters?

During the next few years, I saw Willie many times, but never on July Fourth. I made trips to Vegas to see him at Caesar’s and the Orleans. I watched him perform at rodeo grounds and fairs. I saw him in intimate clubs and great halls.

Don’t miss the photo slideshow of Ben Noey’s photos and memorabilia of Willie Nelson through the decades.

But I missed the old picnic days, camping out with my pals, never knowing or caring what was about to happen.

When I jumped back on the Fourth of July Picnic train at in the Fort Worth Stockyards in 2004, there was a different crowd. Hippies looked like grandfathers. Silver-haired ladies danced in tie-dyed moo moos. People weren’t smoking — anything. A longneck cost more than my admission to the first four picnics. Some of the old reliables were there, like Leon and Kristofferson, but a new generation of entertainers were pleasing a new crop of Willie fans. Los Lonely Boys rocked the place and Larry the Cable Guy was testifying. Things had changed, but the party continued.

In 2005, Bob Dylan joined Willie for the Picnic in the Stockyards. So did the Doobie Brothers and a much slower Leon Russell. Corporate sponsorship had changed the old renegade feeling of the picnic, but the music lived on.

In 2010, the “Bringing It Back Home” Fourth of July Picnic came to The Backyard in Bee Cave, near Austin. I knew I should be there, too. Leon was back in the saddle after having brain surgery earlier in the year. Kristofferson sang the classics and Asleep at the Wheel choo choo ch’boogied. The torch has been passed to youngsters like Randy Rogers and Jamey Johnson to carry the Willie message to a new generation of “young country” listeners.

During the last couple of picnics in the Stockyards, Willie has really made it a family affair — his sons and daughters are part of the entertainment. Paula Nelson, Folk Uke with Amy Nelson, Micah Nelson and Lukas Nelson all showed their stuff.

It’s funny to reflect on your life in Willie increments, but that’s what the picnic has meant for me.

It’s like stepping into a time machine and traveling back to the land of no responsibilities — the days when you could grab an ice chest, a blanket, hop in the back of a pickup and leave the world behind. I’ve seen Willie with someone I would later marry and divorce. I attended a picnic with someone I wished I had married. And, sadly, some of my picnic cronies are no longer with us.

But Willie is THE survivor.

His band has changed a bit in recent years, his signature braids and beard are a little whiter these days, but he continues to provide the soundtrack for the Fourth of July.

As the 2013 picnic nears, I am grateful to have been in the congregation that gathered in the Hill Country for a few days in July 40 years ago. I last saw Willie in Arlington in November. For a few minutes, I closed my eyes and could almost taste the dust.

Willie Nelson at Fashion Week 2015

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

by:  Kathryn Romeyn
Mara Hoffman’s collections are always uplifting, full of vivid colors, prints and flirty, youthful details and silhouettes. And knowing her predilection for rainbows and unicorns and all things happy, it wasn’t surprising to see that her spring 2016 show would be set against a blue sky and white puffy cloud backdrop.

But it wasn’t clear just how uplifting the show would be until the first notes of Willie Nelson singing the Ella Fitzgerald classic “Blue Skies” came trickling out of the speakers. Along with his heartwarming voice came a train of models wearing Nelson’s iconic long pigtail braids, dressed first in several iterations of a blue-sky-and-white-clouds print and then rainbow stripes.


Next up was Nelson’s “Blackjack County Chains,” which went along with richly hued, Hawaiian-inspired caftans, cut-out dresses and jumpsuits. Throughout the show, each of the models also wore a matching bandana à la Nelson, of course.

Willie Nelson’s Story

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

by:  Mike Snider

Willie Nelson is asking you to buy his memories again, with his memoir It’s a Long Story (*** out of four).

Those who do will be treated to a smooth-spoken recollection of the country legend’s childhood and his eight-decade-long musical career.

The conversational tone echoes Nelson’s singing style. It’s natural, as if you were sitting across from the 10-time Grammy winner in his tour bus. As he spins his yarn, you can picture him occasionally puffing on a marijuana e-cigarette.

Nelson, who recently announced that his Willie’s Reserve boutique cannabis brand will soon go on the market, goes into his renowned use of weed here, including his tale of smoking a joint on the roof of the White House. “Unlike booze, (pot) never made me nasty or violent,” he writes.

A Long Story begins in 1990 when the Internal Revenue Service takes possession of his assets, telling him he owes $32 million in back taxes thanks to bad management. “My resources were few. The IRS’s resources were unlimited,” he writes.

Then he flashes back to his childhood in central Texas. Throughout the book, Nelson returns to his tax battle every few chapters.

Nelson’s singing style comes across in the telling and adds to the authenticity of the memoir. As a boy, Nelson is drawn to Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Ernest Tubb, all of whom sang conversationally.

As a pre-teen, he begins playing guitar in a polka band, then in a country swing band with his sister Bobbie and her husband, while also working at a radio station. He also sells encyclopedias before and after heading to Nashville in 1960.

Fans of his music will especially enjoy his insights into the songwriting process. “When songs fall from the sky,” Nelson writes, “all I can do is catch them before they land.”

For instance, he offers up the genesis for the song Night Life: “I heard myself ruminating … It ain’t no good life, but it’s my life. … It happened because I was living it.”

Eventually Night Life and other songs such as Hello Walls, Funny How Time Slips Away and Crazy will become hits for other artists.

Unable to achieve success on his own terms in Nashville, Nelson returns to Texas. “In Nashville, I’d caught hell for my idiosyncratic singing,” he writes. “For years, I’d heard producers tell me that my phrasing was off.”

But while recording 1973’s Shotgun Willie, famed producer Jerry Wexler tells Nelson “your phrasing reminds me of Ray Charles and Sinatra.”

What others considered a fault, Wexler “was calling an asset,” Nelson writes.

Nelson, who just turned 82, becomes a music legend, a movie star and a touring machine. Later, he records the double-disc The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories to help pay off the agency, which agrees to a settlement.

He remains prolific. Over the last decade or so, he’s performed on average 150 shows a year, and released no fewer than 17 albums including Django and Jimmie, due out June 2, an album of duets with Merle Haggard.

Near the book’s end, Nelson offers his refreshing take on the music industry today: “The only money I’ve ever counted on is the money I make when you buy a ticket to my show. And if hearing my record on your laptop or your smartphone motivates you to come see me, I’m a happy man.”

Just like this book — and its subject — direct and genuine.

It’s A Long Story: My Life

Willie Nelson with David Ritz

Little, Brown, 392 pp.

3 stars out of 4

Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

People Magazine
Feb. 13, 1984
by Chet Flippo

Is it true that when cowboys die, they go to Texas? Tonight is cowboy heaven for sure — as two forever young good ole boys named Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson smile and press the flesh and inch their way through phalanxes of ecstatic fans on their way to the bandstand. Out front, a couple thousand of the faithful are whooping it up and pouring down the Lone Star beer at Austin’s Opry House, a true shrine of C&W. It was here that Willie put modern Country on the map in the early ’70s when he gave up on Nashville’s establishment and drifted on down to Austin to forge an alliance between hippies and rednecks.

Hordes of both — now almost indistinguishable, what with their pierced ears and long hair and pounds of silver and gold jewelry and flowered shirts and skintight jeans (and that’s only the men) — are starting their “Willie” chant. Even though the concert footage has already been shot at the Opry House for Songwriter, the movie that Willie and Kris are filming here, Willie got cabin fever after awhile and decided he just had to do a show. Since he now owns the Opry House, along with a lot of other prime Austin real estate, it wasn’t too hard to set up. Austin can never get enough of Willie, especially since he now spends most of his time in Colorado or on the road. He is still a holy man in Texas.

Backstage, Willie, still in his “Doc Jenkins” black garb from the day’s shooting, smiles his guru smile and shakes the hands of preppies in blazers and bikers in leather and grandmothers in shawls and little children and clean-cut jocks and guys who look suspiciously like dope dealers and businessmen wearing suits and left-over ’60?s hippies and farmers and former University of Texas coach Darrell Royal. They are smiling at each other so much that, if you didn’t know better, you might think this is a mob of some kind of babbling religious freaks. But no, they’re just Willie fanatics.

Willie embraces Kristofferson, who is still wearing the black outfit of the “Blackie Buck” character in the movie. Kris and Willie are the old pros of progressive C&W and their lined faces and salt-and-pepper bears show a lot of years of being rode hard and put up wet. But, as a bystander points out, they fearlessly — and recklessly — went up against heavy odds in fighing Nashville’s establishment.

“And, bah Gahd, we won, didn’t we, Willie?” rasps Kris in his window-rattling rumble of a voice, hugging Willie amid the chaos. “Yeah, Kris, I guess we did,” Willie says quietly. Then he and his band hit the stage to plead: “Whiskey river, take my mind.”

The crowd erupts and doesn’t stop. It’s an old-fashioned hoedown with dancers and drinkers twirling and swirling thorugh hours of Willie and Kris, and Kris and Willie stripping down to black T-shirts and dripping with sweat by the time they turn Amazing Grace into a Country Mass — hundreds of europhoric worshipers jumping to their feet and pointing their fingers heavenward and singing along witha Texas sermon from Matthew, Mark, Kris and Willie. And not one fight. Remarkable for a honky-tonk.

“God, Willie’s great,” Kris says a few minutes after the show, back in his modest suite at the Ramada Inn, as he picks his way through stacks of toys for his children and calls room service to order himself some rabbit food and volcano water.

Ten years ago, when they were really living the lives of Doc and Blackie, Kris and Willie existed on shots of tequila and more shots of tequila, with the occasional night out on shots of Jack Daniel’s. They were living right out there “on the border,” as Kris sings in this movie. And they were slogging through the drugs-and-alcohol diet thought essential to capture the exquisite pain of country music.

No longer. Kris pulls off his T-shirt to reveal that he’s healthy now, rippling muscles and all that. Coherent. Sane. Everything that he is not inSongwriter. Doesn’t drink or drug anymore. Runs 10 miles a day. Plays golf with Willie. Eats right. Is writing songs again after a long drought.

“Yeah, things are going real good,” he says with a satisfied sigh from his easy chair, boots up on the table. “I got married. Wasn’t no big thing, but yeah, we got a little boy now. My wife’s named Lisa. She’s a lawyer. She was in law school at Pepperdine when I met her. We had a little boy on the seventh of October — Jesse Turner Kristofferson. ‘Jesse’ for an old football coach I had and ‘Turner’ for [band member] Turner Stephen Bruton.

“Wille’s got a great philosphy — about running, about golf, about everything. Kick it back to where you can enjoy it, you know? I’t like, if youre’ running too hard and you’re miserable, then ease off a little bit. He runs for pleasure, not to drive himself. I swear to God” — he laughts at the notion — “being around Willie is like being around Buddah. He gives off these positive attitudes. Next thing you know, you’re acting like him.”

He laughs again, shaking his head in wonderment as he pushes his room service tray aside. He turns and trains the full force of his intense, sky-blue deep-set eyes on his visitor and says seriously, “I’ll never be like him. I’ll never be able to walk directly from the golf cart to the stage. But I’ll never again put myself through the angst I used to. This film as changed my life as much as A Star is Born did. That was a real turning point because I saw that I had potential as an actor. It was enough to clean me up, to quit drinking, you know. And this move has justified my getting cleaned up. You always hope that working with friends will work, but working with Willie is a real bonus because the chemistry on the screen is so good. This has turned out to be the best experience of my life.”

Willie Nelson and the Old Crow Medicine Show at Prospect Park

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

by:  Kim Kelly

Last week, I went to see Willie Nelson and Old Crow Medicine Show play at the Prospect Park Bandshell. That night, the usually genteel South Brooklyn neighborhood found itself flooded with an excitable hodgepodge of smiley old hippies, young families with picnic blankets, affable bros, and wine-drunk millennials with flower crowns, all drawn together by the prospect of seeing country music’s coolest elder statesman join Americana all-stars Old Crow Medicine Show for a balmy summer evening of old-time rock’n’roll. The show was sold-out, the venue was rammed, and there were so many good vibes floating around that I didn’t even mind shelling out nine bucks for a thimble of red wine (the bars were restricted to that and beer, a situation that felt even more dire when Willie kicked off his set with “Whiskey River”).


by:  Adam Lyon

Enthusiastic sing-alongs peppered the air during Old Crow Medicine Show’s blockbuster “Wagon Wheel” (sit down, Darius Rucker) and while Willie coasted smoothly through a litany of his many, many hits in front of a massive Texas flag, stirring up an especially robust response for “On the Road Again.” Every time either mentioned the open road, the crowd roared along. Even now, even amidst the iPhone-clutching, gentrified splendor of Prospect Park, country music fans love a ramblin’ man.

The alluring trope of the wandering musician is far from new, and has bled into plenty of other genres, from hip-hop to heavy metal. These drifter’s ballads hold universal appeal, whether you’ve lived it or you wish you could. Mankind craves motion, for better or worse; we’re fascinated by travelers and vagabonds, with the tenets of Manifest Destiny imprinted on our bones and secret desires to pack up and head for parts unknown playing on loop in a hidden corner of our collective subconscious.

A traveling musician’s life is still hard, and still lonesome. It can break you, as we’ve seen happen to more musicians than we’d care to name, but it can give you the best times of your life, too; it’s not all doom and gloom. While so many of the best-known road songs come with a side of pathos—think Bob Seger’s weary “Turn the Page,” Blackfoot’s haunted “Highway Song,” or Hank Williams’s resigned “Ramblin’ Man”—Willie Nelson’s classic take on the style is cheerful and upbeat, the kind of song you throw on during the first week of tour when you still have clean socks and everything feels bright and pregnant with potential. When you hear him singing out in that warm, comforting Lone Star mumble about the freedom of it all, the joys of playing and the thrill of constant motion, Willie’s version of tour life sounds like heaven. You honestly believe that he’s up there loving it, and that despite his leathery chops and storied career, there are still places that he’s never been. The Red-Headed Stranger’s braids may have turned ashen, but he’s remains a master salesman, and with this song in particular, he’s shilling the dream of adventure and good times. It’s the perfect weed- and gasoline-scented tinder to help set stationary imaginations aflame, and the Brooklyn crowd roared its approval as “On the Road Again” unspooled through the darkening night.

It’s no coincidence that that song has been a stereo staple of every tour I’ve ever been on, alongside Motorhead’s rip-roaring roadie anthem “(We Are) The Road Crew” and Johnny Cash’s motormouth itinerary on “I’ve Been Everywhere”—two more songs that look on the brighter, brasher side of a nomadic life. It’s comforting to hear these songs and remember that many, many others have come before you, and many more will follow in your footsteps, and even if you’ve never taken Rollins’s word to get in the van, it’s more than likely that it resonates with you too.

When you’re dirty, tired, and hungover a thousand miles from nowhere, that mythic siren song of the open road just sounds like creaking gears and radio static. Touring is still such an economic necessity for so many bands that it’s hardly likely that we’ll have seen the last of the road warriors anytime soon, even once Willie eventually hangs up his Stetson. To tour is to thrive, whether you’re DIY upstarts or a hoary old legacy act. It gets in your blood, like the speed dust in Lemmy’s veins or whatever unholy concoction is keeping Keith Richards alive. You can’t shake it once you’ve got it, and you’re hungry for a taste if you haven’t.

I’m here writing this from my desk in a nice air-conditioned office, but still dreaming of my last cross-country sojourn. Old habits die hard, and lifers like Willie Nelson tend to die with their boots on and bags packed. As Ol’ Hank himself caterwauled from the bottom of his sad, sad heart before hard living called him to an early grave, “I love you baby, but you gotta understand, when the Lord made me, he made a ramblin’ man.”

Read article, see videos here:



Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real in Pioneertown, CA (8/13/15)

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015


story and photos:  Guillermo Prieto/

There was so much buzz surrounding the Pappy and Harriet’s indoor show by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real that the crew cleared as much space in the adobe music venue as possible.

Of course, there was the normal droning on social media about how Pappy’s should have moved the show outside, where there’s more space. Never mind that it was hot as hell, plus the logistics of an outdoor show are immense.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, aka POTR, started performing live in 2008. One reason for all the buzz: Lukas Nelson is the son of Willie Nelson, and he has toured with his father.

One of his major influences is Neil Young. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real played on Neil Young’s 36th album, The Monsanto Years, and POTR just wrapped up a tour with Young. This may explain the demographic shift at Pappy’s that suggested some in attendance might have seen Buffalo Springfield live while in their teens. Even my hemp-fedora-wearing consigliore friend, who believes all music died when the Beatles left Candlestick Park, was in attendance.


Micah Nelson

The show was a family affair, with Insects v. Robots opening, with Micah Nelson, Lucas’ brother, at the helm. Insects v. Robots is a trippy band that jams the hell out of every tune while mixing genres and having a blast. At one point, Micah asked Lukas to join the set—but he was nowhere to be found, so Micah asked for help from the audience; a brunette with Catherine Wheel and Phil Collins tattoos volunteered to go bang on the tour-bus door. As they say, the show must go on, and Insects v. Robots got everyone harmonizing to the psychedelic vibe. On several occasions, Micah Nelson asked with a smirk: “Does anyone have any questions?”

Joshua Tree’s favorite cowgirl, Jesika Von Rabbit, was briefly front and center to get a picture of Lukas Nelson. POTR opened with a greeting from Lukas: “How are you guys doing? … I think I have a lot of friends here.” Nelson seems not cocky, but cool, when he smiles; he has natural charisma.

POTR’s set included “Don’t Take Me Back,” a authentic song about a breakup: “I was sittin’ in my daddy’s car, with a joint in both of my hands, smokin’ ’til the smoke wouldn’t stop, and the windows roll down, and I’m rolling around in my mind.” Lukas included a cover of “L.A. Woman” by the Doors that was an excellent way to showcase the band’s skills, before switching genres several times, with music including “Diamonds on the Soles of Your Shoes” by Paul Simon. In a nod to “Uncle Neil,” POTR included “Cowgirl in the Sand.”

Nelson guitar skills were hypnotic; at one point, he played the guitar with his mouth as he kneeled on the stage.

POTR was getting ready to head out the side door—until a chant of “five more songs!” started from frenzied fans. To pump up the audience, Lukas turned out an excellent cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. Then he remarked: “This is a song we wrote a while ago, ‘The Joint.’”

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real showed why they more than held their own onstage with Willie Nelson and Neil Young.

As the show ended, I bumped into Jesika Von Rabbit at the bar. She was excited that her favorite Neil Young song had been played.


Willie Nelson, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow headline American Roots Festival

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015
photos:  Rick Diamond / Frazer Harrison / Larry Busacca

Willie Nelson, Eric Church and Sheryl Crow are set to headline the inaugural American Roots Festival, coming up on Oct. 17 and 18 in Raleigh, N.C.

In addition to Church, Nelson and Crow, the festival will also feature Chris Stapleton, the Roots, Modest Mouse, Warren Haynes, Grace Potter, Grensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, the Tedeschi Trucks Band and Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, with more acts to be announced in the following weeks.

“Raleigh has an energy that celebrates the best in music, food and arts, making it the perfect place to launch the American Roots Music & Arts Festival,” says Blackbird Production Partners’ Keith Wortman. “This incredible lineup, headlined by North Carolina’s own Eric Church, along with the Taste of Raleigh Food & Brews Celebration, will give music fans and the Raleigh community an unforgettable experience.”

Tickets are currently on sale at, with two-day passes starting at $79. VIP packages are also available. More information can be found at

Church, a North Carolina native, is set to perform during both nights of the festival. The country star, who has been announced as the headliner for WE Fest 2016, recently showed up at Charlie Daniels‘ 40th anniversary Volunteer Jam for a surprise performance, and opened Nashville’s new Ascend Amphitheater with two acoustic shows. On the first night, he shared a new track, “Three Year Old,” inspired by his older son, Boone McCoy. Church and his wife Katherine welcomed their second son, Tennessee Hawkins, in February.

Read More: Inaugural American Roots Festival Announces Lineup |

Willie Nelson & Family at the Pavilion

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

by: Jed Gottlieb

At 82, Willie Nelson is still searching.

Like Bob Dylan or Jerry Garcia or Frank Sinatra, age won’t stop the search. Or even slow it.

Last night at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, Nelson and his family carried on the journey, the quest for… well, not perfection. That’s too precise an idea. Maybe exaltation. Another show, another chance to elevate the crowd into the mystic.

Starting — as always — with “Whisky River,” Willie smashed half a dozen songs into one long jam. Rearranging vocal melodies and inventing new time signatures to suit his fancy, he strung together “Still Is Still Moving to Me,” “Beer for My Horses,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” and “Crazy.” Before a final drum beat, he would deliver a quick thank you and ramble into the next song’s first chord.

So many old musicians pack their stage with horns and backup singers, an extra guitarist or a couple of keyboard players. They want to fill out the sound, stuff the sonic experience so fat you can’t hear the holes. Not Willie. He did everything with only a bass, snare drum and harmonica backing up his voice and his guitar, Trigger.

And oh, that guitar. Nobody plays with the raw liberty of Willie. At moments he attacked like Johnny Ramone if Johnny had been born in 1933 in Abbott, Texas. Later he slurred guitar lines like Django Reinhardt after a bottle of corn mash moonshine. Then he’d drop in a clear, lyrical line (like on “Always on My Mind”) letting everyone know he plays what the song deserves.

He might have kept going like until the house lights came on but eventually he had to bring out sister Bobbie, who at 84 plays a mean honky tonk on her grand piano. Instead of hampering the pace, Bobbie pushed the tempo when called for. The quintet stomped through a Hank Williams medley of “Jambalaya on the Bayou/Hey Good Looking/Move It On Over” like the roadhouse band they’ve always been.

Helping close this chapter of the quest, opening band Old Crow Medicine Show — a perfect tour companion and genius string band (plus a little drums) — joined Willie and family to sing “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and “I’ll Fly Away.” A little cheek and a little gospel to send everyone home.

God, I hope Willie keeps on with search for a while. But when it does end, I’ll remember being lucky enough to join him on the path a few times.

Bonus track: The great Tim Gearan hosted a de facto afterparty at Atwood’s. A dozen people from the Willie show came to see Gearan journey down that rock ‘n’ roll road of exaltation.

Willie Nelson Statue in Austin

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Willie Nelson, Luck Ranch, Spicewood, Texas (2001) by Annie Leibowitz

Monday, August 17th, 2015



Willie Nelson & Family in Dayton (August 18, 2015) (SOLD OUT)

Sunday, August 16th, 2015


Sold-out show
Who: Willie Nelson with special guests Old Crow Medicine Show
Where: Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd., Kettering, OH
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday August 18th
by:  Don Thrasher

one of the most active figures in country music. The Texas native, presenting a sold-out concert at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Tuesday, is a musician, concert organizer, author, actor and activist.

Here are some high points from his lengthy career.

Origin story: Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas, on April 29, 1933. He was performing live by the age of 9 and working professionally by the time he was a teenager. He was a three-sport athlete in high school and a member of Future Farmers of America and still found time to perform regularly throughout the region.

Rambling man: After short stints in the Air Force and college, Nelson moved frequently, working a string of day jobs while pursuing a music career. His first big break came a few months after relocating to Nashville in 1960 when Ray Price recorded a Nelson original and then asked him to join his band.

The Nashville years: Nelson wrote songs for several other acts, including the Patsy Cline hit “Crazy,” before signing his first record deal in 1961. He was 28 years old. He had a string of Top 40 country hits throughout the decade, but a No. 1 smash still eluded him.

Musical renegade: The singer’s fortunes changed after moving to Austin, Texas, in the early ’70s and embracing the outlaw country of contemporaries such as Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. Landmark albums followed, such as “Red Headed Stranger” (1975) and “Stardust” (1978).

Overcoming obstacles: Despite problems with the IRS and a few altercations with law enforcement for marijuana possession, Nelson continues to thrive as a recording artist and in-demand live act. He is currently on the road for a summer tour with Old Crow Medicine Show.

Willie & friends: Nelson has recorded his share of collaborations, including the albums “Waylon & Willie” (1978) with Waylon Jennings, “Pancho & Lefty” (1983) with Merle Haggard and “Two Men With the Blues” (2008) with jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. He hit the top 5 on the pop singles chart in 1984 with a duet with Julio Iglesias, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before.”

Django & Jimmie: Nelson and Haggard collaborated again on the new album, “Django & Jimmie,” which was released on June 2. The longtime friends deliver a powerful collection of songs about childhood heroes, mortality, lost friends and faith.

Farm Aid: In the mid-1980s, Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young created a fundraising concert to benefit American farmers. Farm Aid celebrates its 30th anniversary in Chicago on Sept. 18 with performances by the founders along with Dave Matthews, Mavis Staples and others.



Willie Nelson and Family at Celebrate Brooklyn benefit (Aug. 12, 2015)

Friday, August 14th, 2015

article and photos by Lindsey Rhoades

Though his touring life as one of country music’s most celebrated icons has taken him all over the world, Willie Nelson’s heart is still in Texas. With his birth state’s flag draped large behind him and The Family Band he’s toured with since the Seventies, Nelson took the Celebrate Brooklyn! stage just as the sun set over Prospect Park. His legendary locks have long since faded to gray, but Nelson will always be known as the Red-Headed Stranger, a travelin’ man with a million stories to tell and a way of telling them through songs that have captivated audiences all over the world.

At 82 years of age, his voice isn’t what it used to be; he doesn’t sing the way he does on those old recordings so much as he speaks his lyrics more like an afterthought, asking the audience for help with a wave of his arm or by holding his hand to his ear. Beginning his set nonchalantly with “Whiskey River” from his 1973 breakout albumShotgun Willie, Nelson quickly asserted himself as a singer-songwriter first and foremost. Whatever weird cultural hero he’s become as an outspoken proponent of marijuana legalization and self-confessed stoner, the simple truth of his life’s work came through in hits like “Good Hearted Woman,” “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and “On The Road Again.” He wasted no time in playing these early on in the set, as if to remind all the city slickers on the lawn that no matter what they’d heard about Willie, he remains a simple man with a beat-up guitar, a true performer at heart.

Part of the reason Nelson’s persona is so enduring is because the earmarks of it have gone largely unchanged in the last four and a half decades since he shunned popular country and branded himself an “outlaw,” in turn defining a sub-genre around that identity. Whether it’s the two long braids that hang down his shoulders – just last year, a pair he clipped in 1983 and gifted to Waylon Jennings to commemorate his fellow outlaw’s sobriety sold at auction for $37,000 to an undisclosed bidder – or the crocheted red, white and blue guitar strap tethering him to “Trigger,” his beloved Martin N-20, Nelson’s had a long time to get comfortable with his identity, and he wears it proudly, no matter how worn out it might seem. Trigger is the perfect example. The only thing more shocking than the state of the cherished, gashed acoustic guitar is the golden tones he somehow manages to produce with it despite its condition. On “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground,” from 1981’s Honeysuckle Rose, the sound it made was so beautiful it was nearly heartbreaking.

About halfway through the set, Nelson stopped to introduce another permanent fixture of his career: his backing band, known as The Family. His sister, Bobbie, played a little piano ditty while he identified each of them one by one – Kevin Smith on upright bass, who joined after the death of Bee Spears in 2011; Mickey Raphael on harmonica; and the English brothers, Billy and Paul, on the drums. While Billy, like Smith, is a relatively new addition to The Family (he signed on five years ago to help Paul out after a stroke made it difficult for him to continue drumming on his own), The Family plays as a seamless ensemble, almost as an extension of Nelson himself. As tribute to that, Nelson sang “Me And Paul” about his rough days on the road with the drummer. He removed his cowboy hat just before he did so, replacing it with a red bandana he wore for the remainder of the show.

While “Me And Paul” acts as straightforward autobiography, the rest of the set taken as a whole also makes a great rough sketch of Nelson’s best moments. He took ownership of songs that he penned that were made famous by others, like “Crazy” and “Funny How Time Slips Away,” written in years when he was still struggling to make it in Nashville. But he also had a way of making others’ songs his own, as with “Always On My Mind,” for which he won a Grammy in 1982. He paid tribute to the greats that came before him with “Georgia on My Mind,” and “Shoeshine Man,” among others, as well as a medley of Hank Williams classics.

Perhaps openers Old Crow Medicine Show said it best as they played to a bandshell that was already full of old-time country fans: Kicking off this leg of Nelson’s tour as a supporting act was, said Ketch Secor, a “Hillbilly Dream Come True.” Though it’s rare to find hillbillies in the Big Apple, Willie Nelson’s Celebrate Brooklyn! performance brought out the hillbilly in all of us, if only for one lovely evening.