Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

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.

Willie Nelson’s Music Heals

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

KFDA – NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports
by: Sterling Whitaker

Every country music fan loves Willie Nelson but the parents of one special little girl credit his music with literally saving her life.

Four-year-old Ava Adams was born premature at 27 weeks and endured 12 surgeries in the first 15 months of her life. Her parents, Brittany and Jamison, were allowed very little interaction with her in the neonatal intensive care unit, but they did notice one thing that seemed to really help her.

“Any time she was having a bad day, you could play Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash or Ray Price and her stats would come up, she would start doing better just almost immediately,” Jamison tells News Channel 10 in Amarillo, Texas.

As she got older, Ava gravitated toward Nelson, and now, along with a backpack containing a feeding tube, she carries her Willie Nelson doll with her everywhere she goes. For Christmas in 2014, her parents scored tickets to Nelson’s scheduled concert in New Mexico, but it was canceled due to snow, and ever since then, Ava wanders around the house yelling, “We need to go see Willie Nelson!”

Her mother says they’re going to be patient and wait for another opportunity to see Nelson when the venue is conducive to Ava’s needs. Until then, she offers up her thanks to the country icon.

“You have no clue how many times you’ve actually saved our daughter’s life,” Brittany says. “There were times where her heart rate was incredibly low. She was … cardiac, she was not doing well. She spent so long in there and it was such a long road, but actually just playing that music for her really, really did change and save her life.”

Read article here

Willie Nelson and Austin in the New Delhi News

Saturday, August 8th, 2015


photo:  Janis Tillerson
by:  Ashwin Rajagopalan

Austin, Texas, is enjoying its new status as home of all things cool, from Willie Nelson to vegan spreads to bat sightings

It might have well been a scene from the Batman-Dark Knight trilogy. It’s close to sunset and a cloud of bats — probably a million, have just filled the skies. No, I’m not in a movie set but visibly frustrated at a vantage point in Austin, Texas, distraught that my camera cannot capture the visual spectacle that has just unfolded before my eyes. “Christopher Nolan should see this,” whispers one of the camera-wielding tourists.

Texas’s once low-profile capital (isn’t that what most American state capitals were envisioned to be) is enjoying its new status as one of America’s coolest cities. And it clearly didn’t happen by accident.

The bat flight is not a round-the-year phenomenon; thankfully that’s not the case with Austin’s ever-growing list of ‘must dos’. Other American cities may have taken years to build their carefully cultivated, larger-than-life images, but not Austin. Its emergence on all America’s ‘hip lists’ — from entertainment to cuisine, is clearly a 21st-century phenomenon fuelled largely by lifestyle TV shows and blogs. Austin didn’t even need the power of Hollywood. Austin-ites don’t care much about Hollywood celebrities either; at least that’s what they’d like you to believe.

Tune capital

Of all the monikers this city has embraced, nothing rings truer than ‘Live Music Capital of the World’. I needed just one evening in the Red River district to somewhat come to terms with the city’s bursting live music scene. The sheer range at the 250-odd live music venues is mind-boggling. Willie Nelson will be proud (don’t ever ask an Austin-ite who Willie Nelson is!), as quite a few venues are country-music hubs while jazz and rock are high on the list too. Saxon Pub has been around longer than Austin has been cool — 22,000-plus musical performances since the ’90s. It is one of those venues where Hollywood celebrities can blend in without being mobbed. Emo’s, just down the street, was one of the catalysts for Austin’s booming punk rock scene in the ’90s; not surprisingly they are mighty proud of their ‘rough around the edges’ image.

Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dixie Chicks, Shawn Colvin… Austin’s list of Grammy winners keeps growing. However, Willie Nelson’s bond with the Austin music scene is particularly special. In the ’70s he was part of the pilot episode of Austin City Limits (ACL), now the longest-running music programme in television history (Time recognised it as one of the 10 most influential music programmes of all time). ACL’s appeal didn’t just stop with television but inspired one of the city’s biggest live music events — The Austin City Limits Festival, held in the first half of October, one of the best times of the year to be in Austin.

Read entire article here.


The Best of Willie Nelson (Liberty Records)

Thursday, July 30th, 2015


Willie Nelson wasn’t at Liberty Records for much longer than a couple of cups of coffee, but he did record some great material for the label, including “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Hello Walls,” “Crazy,” and “Mr. Record Man.” This set includes all of these, plus a handful of others from the early portion of Nelson’s career, and it makes for a fine introduction to the songwriting side of Nelson, since some of the best songs he ever wrote are here.

~ Steve Leggett, All Music Guide

Track List:

1 Funny How Time Slips Away 3:05
2 Hello Walls 2:24
3 The Part Where I Cry 2:21
4 Undo the Right 2:34
5 Wake Me When It’s Over 2:49
6 Crazy 2:52
7 Touch Me 2:14
8 One Step Beyond 2:27
9 Three Days 2:58
10 Half a Man 2:27
11 Where My House Lives 2:21
12 Mr. Record Man 2:32
13 Darkness on the Face of the Earth 2:49

Willie Nelson @The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas (July 26, 2015)

Thursday, July 30th, 2015


by:  Cindi Reed

Age has only seemed to improve Willie’s performance. His thin, haggard appearance adds even more authenticity to his outlaw country style. Time has given his voice an extra twang and his sad songs an extra gravitas. To belabor the point: He’s been singing “Funny How Time Slips Away” for more than 50 years.

The band was fantastic, Willie’s guitar is still on point and daughter Amy even made a cameo, harmonizing with her father. The show concluded with a gospel medley that was uniquely Willie. He combined old-timey salvation standards with “It’s All Going to Pot” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” It made for an exquisite country catharsis:

Just keep the music playin’/
That’ll be a good goodbye/
Roll me up and smoke me when I die.

Set List

Whiskey River
Beer For My Horses
Good Hearted Woman
Funny How Time Slips Away
Night Life
Down Yonder
Me and Paul
If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time
Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground
On the Road Again
Always on My Mind
Hey Good Lookin’
Move it On Over
Georgia on a Fast Train
Georgia On My Mind


“Farm Aid 30 will celebrate our impact, and rally our supporters for the work ahead,” — Willie Nelson

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

Willie Nelson
photo:  Ebet Roberts
by:  Thom Duffy

The guiding foursome of Farm Aid — Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews — will celebrate a milestone for the organization that supports America’s family farmers with a 30th-anniversary concert in Chicago on Sept 19, featuring Imagine Dragons, whose album Smoke and Mirrors topped the Billboard 200 on its arrival in March.

Also on the bill for Farm Aid 30 at the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island in Chicago will be: Jack Johnson, Kacey Musgraves, Old Crow Medicine Show, Mavis Staples, Holly Williams, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Insects vs Robots and Blackwood Quartet.   Tickets for the concert go on sale Aug. 3.  A Farm Aid 30 app will be released for iPhone and Android.   A social medium campaign around the show has begun using the hash tag #Road2FarmAid.

“We organized the first Farm Aid concert in Illinois in 1985 to respond to the people suffering during the farm crisis,” says Nelson, president and founder of Farm Aid. “Thirty years later, in Chicago, we’ll bring together so many of the people — farmers, eaters, advocates and activists — who have made the progress of the Good Food Movement possible. At Farm Aid 30 we’ll celebrate the impact we’ve had and rally our supporters for the work ahead.”

Farm Aid has its roots in the mid-’80s era of music activism. On July 13, 1985, onstage in Philadelphia at Live Aid, the concert for African famine relief, Bob Dylan remarked to the crowd: “Wouldn’t it be great if we did something for our own farmers right here in America?”

At the time, falling crop prices and rising debt payments had ignited a wave of foreclosures that were pushing family farmers off their land.

Nelson organized the inaugural Farm Aid on an all-but-impossibly-short lead time at the University of Illinois Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Sept. 22, 1985. It is has been staged every year since, at venues around the country, and is the longest-running concert for a cause in pop music history.

In the 30 years since, Farm Aid has persevered in its mission, supporting America’s family farmers with programs year round.  The organization also has become a key promoter of developments in the wider Good Food movement in the United States:  the growth of farmers markets, the rise of community-supported agriculture groups, the spread of farm-to-table “slow food” restaurants and the wider use of sustainable farming practices.

“In 1985, alternatives didn’t exist for most farmers and people didn’t understand that there was a role for them in changing the system,” says Mellencamp. “The Good Food Movement didn’t exist. People thought the farm crisis was a rural problem. “But after that first concert, people listened. They realized that if we lost family farmers, we lost Main Street and we lost our food. They stood up with family farmers and now things are changing. We’ve got a lot more work to do, but the connection between rural and urban communities is more real and important to people.”

Farm Aid co-founder Young targeted industrial farming giant Monsanto and its use of genetically modified seeds on his current album The Monsanto Years and he’s touring to support the album this summer with Promise of the Real, the band that includes Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah.

More than a concert, Farm Aid serves as an annual gathering of activists focused on food issues, environmentalism and social-justice battles. Many farmers and activists travel to the event each year to network, share strategies, listen to the music and eat family farm food on a menu that Farm Aid has trademarked as “Homegrown”.

While the Sept. 19 show is the first for Farm Aid near downtown Chicago, the organization has staged four previous concerts in Illinois, beginning with the first in Champaign and three more (1997, 1998 and 2005) in Tinley Park, Ill.

“The first Farm Aid concert sparked a family farm movement that has rallied hundreds of thousands in support of a system of agriculture that’s good for family farmers, good for the economy, good for the soil and water and good for all of us,” says Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid, which is based in Cambridge, Mass.

“Over the years, we’ve heard from so many people how crucial it is that we continue to work together and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with family farmers as we fight for change,” says Mugar. “At Farm Aid 30, we’ll celebrate the many actions — small and large — that we are all taking to make a big difference for family farmers. We’ll take stock of 30 years of action and strengthen our commitment to work for change in our farm and food system.”