Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

Willie Nelson golf cart part of electric vehicle display at Powerhouse Museum

Sunday, July 26th, 2015


Willie Nelson’s customized golf cart is now part of the electric vehicle display at the Powerhouse Museum and Visitors Center. The golf cart features red velvet seats, a Rolls Royce-style grille and hood ornament, and a miniature bar on the back. It has a radio and tape deck, headlights and turn signals. The cart was built in 1981 and presented to the famed country singer by his former wife, Connie.

The Kingman Powerhouse was placed in service in 1907 to generate electrical power for the city of Kingman. It was then named the Desert Power & Water Company Electric Power Plant.

Opened May 2001 and operated by the Mohave Pioneers Historical Society, the Arizona Route 66 Museum is located in Kingman’s Historic Powerhouse and depicts the historical evolution of travel along the 35th parallel that became Route 66.

Brilliant murals, photos and life-size dioramas capture each of the groups that have traveled what came to be known as the Mother Road.  Follow the paths of the Native American trade routes and the U. S. Army led survey expeditions.  Travel along with the settlers on their migration west over the nation’s first federally funded wagon roads.   Feel the hardship and despair of the dust bowl refugees as they journeyed along the Mother Road to a better life. Visit Main Street America as the 50’s usher in fun and excitement for Route 66 travelers.

The Route 66 Museum is truly unique in that it is a museum of history, housed in a historical building that lighted the way for the earliest Route 66 travelers.  The building, built in two phases between 1907 and 1911, was operated by the Desert Power & Light Company and powered early Kingman and area mines starting in July, 1909.  It also supplied power for the construction of Hoover Dam, until the Dam began producing cheaper hydroelectric power in the late 1930’s.  It was soon mothballed, not to be restored until 60 years later when it was opened as a Visitor Center in 1997.

New in 2014, the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum, the first of it’s kind anywhere, is now open and can be accessed only through the Arizona Route 66 Museum!  This 3,600 square foot Museum includes twelve (and counting) vehicles on loan from the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation, with members world-wide. The Foundation’s purpose is to preserve the history of and examples of electric vehicles from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century for all the peoples of the world to enjoy and learn from. The exhibit is expected to open in December 2014.

Willie Nelson: New book, new album, new pot business

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

by:  George Vargas

Willie Nelson, cedar bark smoker?

Yes, indeed, as the country-music giant affirms in his new autobiography, “It’s a Long Story: My Life.”

“As a kid, I’d sneak off and smoke anything that burned,” writes Nelson, who performs here Friday at Harrah’s Resort SoCal in Valley Center.

“Loved to smoke. Would even smoke strips of cedar bark. The various substances have changed over the years, but the act itself has never ceased to satisfy me.”

Happily, Nelson’s musical legacy continues to burn even brighter than his long-avowed fondness for marijuana.

Now 82, Nelson is embarked on a joint summer tour with his longtime band and Alison Krauss & Union Station, although his Harrah’s show is, sadly, sans Krauss.

Blessed with an oh-so-supple voice, Nelson has released 17 albums in the last decade alone — and nine since 2010. They include last year’s “December Day,” which teams him with his sister, Bobbie (his pianist for the past half century), and this year’s “Django and Jimmie,” his first duo outing with Merle Haggard since 1983’s “Pancho & Lefty.”

Highlights on the album include “The Only Man Wilder Than Me,” “It’s All Gone To Pot,” “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” and an inspired new version of Haggard’s classic “Swinging Doors.”

Nelson recently announced plans to launch Willie’s Reserve, a premium marijuana line, which will be sold in Colorado and Washington. In November, he’ll receive the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Past recipients include Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Carole King.

“My Life,” co-written with David Rich, is not Nelson’s first book. It was preceded by “Willie: An Autobiography,” “The Tao Of Willie,” “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and “The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes.”

Nelson’s sense of humor is matched by his tenacity. Both have helped him greatly in a career that proceeded in fits and sparks, before finally igniting in the 1970s.

In 1961, four artists scored Top 20 hits with songs Nelson wrote: Patsy Cline (“Crazy”); Faron Young (“Hello Walls”); Ray Price (“Nightlife”); and Billy Walker (“Funny How Time Slips Away”). Yet, his first 14 albums were all flops. Undaunted, the Air Force veteran persevered, as befits a former encyclopedia and vacuum cleaner salesman.

“There’s a lot of similarities,” Nelson told me in a 1993 Union-Tribune interview.

“You’ve got to sell yourself first. And, once you do that, it really doesn’t matter what the product is; they’ll try to buy it from you, whether they like it or not. Door-to-door selling was the best education I ever had. My first door-to-door salesman job was back when I was a kid — so I’ve been selling one thing or another ever since I can remember.”

Willie Nelson  & Family, with Emi Sunshine

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Where: The Events Center, Harrah’s Resort SoCal, 777 Harrah’s Resort Southern California Way, Valley Center

Tickets: $55-$125 (must be 21 or older to attend)

Phone: (800) 745-3000

Willie Nelson and Family at the Greek Theater (7/18/2015)

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

photos:  Armando Brown
See his slide show with more pictures from the show here.
by: Kelli Skye Fadroski

The skies darkened, thunder rattled the windows and the dense black clouds lit up with bolts of lightning as heavy rain splattered my windshield while I drove to the Greek Theatre on Saturday night to catch country music legend Willie Nelson and Family perform with Grammy award-winning bluegrass band Alison Krauss & Union Station.

Sure, the weather wasn’t ideal if you were expecting one of the clear, breezy evenings typical of July, especially at the beautiful outdoor amphitheater, whose lush vegetation makes it feels very distant from the bustling traffic and high-rise buildings just down the road.

But people made the best of it. They made jokes as they stood in line to get in about how poorly Southern Californians handle anything other than sunny and above 75 degrees. They brought trash bags to cover their seats, and women pulled various styles of hats down over their frizzing hair. Ill-prepared men in blazers strategically cut holes in trash bags and wore them with smiles.

Even a few celebrities braved the elements. Hilary Swank (“Million Dollar Baby” and “Boys Don’t Cry”) and Thomas Gibson (“Criminal Minds” and “Chicago Hope”) were both spotted in the audience, seeming not to let a little rain ruin their time out with friends and family.

We all prepared for the worst, but Mother Nature proved no match for Nelson, who at 82, delivered his straight-to-the-point set with ease amid, thankfully, very little rain. His frizz-free, long braided hair was something to envy, but this old cowboy wasn’t out to impress with looks. He played his worn, beat-up acoustic guitar with gusto and kept tight with his band.

He barreled through, offering little banter or filler between tracks, which included a handful or so of covers from his buddies and heroes. He got the crowd on its feet and raising glasses of beer high into the air with Toby Keith’s “Beer for My Horses” and paid tribute to his fellow Highwaymen player, the late Waylon Jennings, with “Good Hearted Woman.”

Hank Williams Sr. got the most love from Nelson during a trio of covers including “Jambalaya on the Bayou,” “Hey Good Lookin’” and “Move It on Over.” Of course, everyone swayed and sang along to “Georgia on My Mind,” made famous by the late Ray Charles, and his lovely and almost heartbreaking Grammy award-winning rendition of “Always on My Mind.”

Several original cuts were offered up as well. He kicked things off with “Whiskey River,” “Still Is Still Moving to Me” and later added in his boot-stompin’ hit “On the Road Again.”

The longtime cannabis user and legalization supporter did get a wide grin on his face when a group of patrons in the front rows, who were well into their 50s and 60s, passed around a joint and simultaneously blew the thick smoke his way. As if Willie Nelson ever really needs to be more high. He chronicles such adventures in storytelling-style with bits like “Me and Paul” and talked his talk as he presented the set closer, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”

Nelson’s co-headliner, Alison Krauss & Union Station, are celebrating their 25th year together and making it special with a set filled with hits, including selections off movie soundtracks like “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Cold Mountain,” which helped further launch their bluegrass music into the spotlight. Though Krauss’ soft, wispy vocal and fiddle tend to take center stage, she is backed by an extremely tight group of musicians, including vocalist-guitarist Dan Tyminski, who was the singing voice of actor George Clooney in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Ron Block, a Torrance native, rocked it on banjo, while Barry Bales set the pace on upright bass and Jerry Douglas rounded out the sound on the Dobro.

After they opened with “Let Me Touch You for a While” and a cover of Peter Rowan’s “Dust Bowl Children,” a little rain started to fall and people freaked out. The band continued to play as audience members scurried to cover themselves with ponchos and raincoats. When the second track was finished, Krauss smiled and made a quick apology for the sprinkle. “We can’t see it, but we can see what’s happening, and we’re sorry.”

The band kept on through “Restless,” a cover of the Fountains’ “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” and a hauntingly beautiful version of Shenandoah’s “Ghost in This House.” Fans cheered as they broke into the very appropriately placed and titled “Rain Please Go Away.” Krauss & Co. closed the set perfectly with their version of Keith Whitley’s “When You Say Nothing at All.”

Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss at Thunder Valley Resort in Lincoln, CA (7/17/15)

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
by:  Mel Shields

Willie Nelson to be honored by Library of Congress

Monday, July 13th, 2015
Jacqueline Martin
by:  Brett Zongker

WASHINGTON | Willie Nelson will receive the national library’s pop music prize this year — the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song — as the Library of Congress cited Nelson’s six decades in music Thursday.

Nelson will receive the prize in November when he will be feted with a concert and other honors in Washington, the library said.

Nelson’s songwriting includes country-music standards like “Crazy” and “Hello Walls” as well as the albums “Shotgun Willie” and “Stardust.” And he’s still making new music. Earlier this month, Nelson’s new collaboration with Merle Haggard, “Django and Jimmie,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard country album chart.

Librarian of Congress James Billington said the native Texan is a “musical explorer” who has redrawn the boundaries of country music, crossing into jazz, blues, folk, rock and Latin styles.

“A master communicator, the sincerity and universally appealing message of his lyrics place him in a category of his own while still remaining grounded in his country-music roots,” Billington said in announcing the honor. “Like America itself, he has absorbed and assimilated diverse stylistic influences into his stories and songs. He has helped make country music one of the most universally beloved forms of American artistic expression.”

Nelson has made more than 200 recordings. In the last five years alone, he has delivered 10 new releases and published a New York Times best-selling book.

The Gershwin Prize honors an artist’s lifetime achievement in music. Past recipients include Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Paul McCartney.

In a written statement, Nelson said it was an honor to be named the next recipient of the Gershwin Prize. “I appreciate it greatly,” he said.

Willie Nelson and Jimmy Carter: Real American Heroes

Sunday, July 12th, 2015


photo:  Sarah Rogers

Willie Nelson and Jimmy Carter: Our Real American Heroes
by:  Malcolm Jones

For a couple of weeks now, I have been enjoying the easygoing and remarkably addictive pleasure of Django and Jimmy, the new album by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. The title cut celebrates a pair of formative influences, Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers, and I could have stood a few tracks covering the work of those artists (Willie did put Django’s “Nuages” on a recent album and frequently performs it in concert). But this isn’t really a concept album. Instead, it’s just two great musicians having fun. Or should I say, still having fun. Merle is 78. Willie is 82. They could do anything they like—including nothing at all—at this stage of their illustrious careers. But they’ve chosen to make music, writing songs and performing actively. And thank goodness for that.

At the same time, I’ve also been reading the latest Willie Nelson autobiography,It’s a Long Story: My Life (the first version, Willie, appeared in 1988), as well as the autobiography of former President Jimmy Carter, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety.

Both Nelson and Carter have indeed led long, full lives, and both clearly believe those lives are far from over. Carter ends his book talking about spending more time on his painting and woodworking—things he can do, he says, when he slows down and can no longer build houses for Habitat for Humanity, or go skiing, or broker another peace agreement. Willie ends a little more poetically, noting that even coming home is the beginning of another journey.

(I know it looks awkward to call one man by his first name and the other by his last, but it just feels dead wrong to call Willie anything but Willie, and never mind that I don’t know him any better than you do. And calling Jimmy Carter Jimmy sounds presumptuous, if not disrespectful. So from here on it’s Willie and Carter, and consistency be damned.)

If time has slowed either of these gentlemen, it would be hard to say how. Each man is clearly up and at it every day. Upon leaving the presidency in 1981, Carter quickly founded the Carter Center in Atlanta, which was initially a forum for crisis mediation around the globe before becoming one of the foremost NGOs in the fight against diseases in the Third World. As he writes, “I was not interested in just building a museum or storing my White House records and memorabilia; I wanted a place where we could work.” He has also been a highly visible volunteer with Habitat, and written countless books on subjects including public policy, his childhood, women’s rights, and nature, as well as books of poetry and even fiction: The Hornet’s Nest, about the American Revolution, is the only novel ever written by a president, and it’s not half bad. Typically, after people asked him repeatedly if he ever just kicked back and had fun, he wrote a book about that (downhill skiing, mountain climbing, birdwatching, and fly fishing).

Hard work is a constant theme in Carter’s life, whether it be farming, political campaigning, or mediating some international dispute. The child who took shorthand in school is father to the man who undertook a speed reading course when he reached the White House. But work, in Carter’s life, is never separated from learning something new, and learning is never separated from purpose. Perhaps this comes from the way he grew up. In the Depression-era South, if you wanted food, you grew it. If you wanted furniture, you built it. Self-sufficiency was not an ideal, it was simple reality.

A Southern boy like Carter, Willie grew up in rural Texas doing his share of farm work, too. In his case, of course, music was a much bigger part of life right from the start (his grandmother, who raised him and his sister, Bobbie, was the town’s music teacher). But here again, the principle of self-sufficiency held sway: if you wanted music, you made it yourself.

So, while Willie may be everybody’s favorite poster boy for kicking back, don’t be fooled. In his golden years, the man who early in life almost singlehandedly upended the Nashville sound (countrypolitan strings and woowoo choruses) has become legal marijuana’s most visible and eloquent proponent and the driving force behind Farm Aid—the annual concert that raises money to help the nation’s family farms—all while pursuing a recording and performing career that makes me tired just reading about it. Since turning 80, he writes, he’s “written a couple of dozen new songs, recorded five new albums, and performed over three hundred live concerts.” He left out the part about writing a new memoir.No surprise, Willie’s book is the more entertaining of the two, although Carter gets points for writing his all by himself (Willie had a ghostwriter). But both are worth anyone’s time, because both are such clear expressions of the men who wrote them. Willie is a loquacious storyteller with a disarming knack for self-effacement. Carter is more clipped, more reserved—the truth of the matter often lies in things he doesn’t say, perhaps because that’s the way he was raised (when his father was upset about something or disagreed with something someone said, he would silently get up and leave the room). When Carter is fond of someone, e.g., Jerry Ford or George H.W. Bush, he says so wholeheartedly. Of his more strained relationships with, say, the Clinton or Obama White Houses, he maintains a discreet if not icy silence.He is more forthcoming, and more than once, about his sexist attitudes as a husband over the years, when he would unilaterally decide to, say, run for state senate without consulting his wife. Crossing Rosalynn Carter, one gathers, is not something you do unthinkingly, at least not more than once.

The conventional wisdom denigrates Carter’s presidency and extols the man, but no one ever asks the obvious question: if a decent, hardworking, intelligent man can be great but can’t be a great president, isn’t there something wrong with the way we think about the presidency?

As for Willie, he may have led a messier life (four marriages, trouble with the IRS), but he’s the man who gave us “Crazy,” “Night Life,” and “Funny How Times Slips Away,” tunes that still remind us just how subtly artful—and how moving—good country songs can be.

At a time when genuine American heroes are hard to find, I’d say Jimmy Carter and Willie Nelson are as close as it gets and better than most. Neither man is falsely modest, but neither is full of himself. Both are still full of wonder—at the world and at what they’ve done in it. As Willie muses about his songwriting, “When songs fall from the sky … all I can do is catch them before they land. They are mysterious gifts [that] strip me bare and leave me amazed … Did I really write these songs, or am I just a channel chosen by the Holy Spirit to express these feelings?”

Men of faith, men of action, contemplative men who believe in getting things done and helping the downtrodden wherever and however they can—if I had to instruct kids coming along about where to look for heroes, I’d start with these books, which in their very different ways are like roadmaps for rich, useful lives.

And if an extraterrestrial were to approach me and ask, what does America have to show for itself, I wouldn’t hesitate. Ray Charles might be dead, I’d say, but Jimmy Carter and Willie Nelson still walk the planet. And if you think can do better than that, then let me introduce you to Dolly Parton.

Austin Musicians talk about their favorite Willie Nelson song

Saturday, July 11th, 2015

Willie Nelson penned the classic love song "Crazy." Photo by Jay Janner

photo: Jay Janner
by: Deborah Sengupta Stith

Yesterday Willie Nelson became the first country singer to receive the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. In response to the announcement we reached out to local musicians about their favorite Willie Nelson songs and why they are so moving. Here are a few (lightly edited) responses we received.

Sabrina Ellis – A Giant Dog, Sweet Spirit

Willie Nelson has been a huge influence on my ability to write good lyrics. I didn’t know how much I cared about Willie’s songwriting until my mid-twenties when Esther Phillips’ cover of “Hello Walls” drew me in. To this day, that is my favorite Willie song. The song is written like a riddle, concise, revealing more about the singer’s situation line by line. The singer is addressing a personified wall, accusing the wall of being lonely since his/her lover walked out. During the bridge he says, “She went away and left us all alone, the way she planned. Guess we’ll have to learn to get along without her if we can.” Leave it to Willie to make a heartbreak induced schizophrenic state seem sweet. My favorite line is in the second verse, when he addresses his window, “Is that a teardrop in the corner of your pane? Now, don’t you try to tell me that it’s rain.” His poetry make those hard truths go down easy.

Dale Watson

The beauty of a Willie Nelson favorite song is the fact one has their definite, without a doubt, favorite…. depending on your mood. That’s the amazing gift Willie has, uptempo or slow. “Night Life” was the soundtrack of my actual life. While “Crazy” was a literary masterpiece.

I have to pick one , I remember listening over and over to “I Just Can’t Let You Say Goodbye” on the “Live at Panther Hall” record. It’s a song of murder but some magical way Willie seem to make it alright. It’s not PC and it’s likely not printable but honestly it’s Willies honesty in the song. He manages to put into song the dark side and make you enjoy it.” the flesh around your throat is pale/Indented by my fingernail ….And Death is a friend to love and I….” It’s like honky tonk Shakespeare.

Elizabeth McQueen – KUTX FM, Formerly Asleep at the Wheel

It’s obviously impossible to choose a favorite from the bottomless depths of the Willie Nelson catalogue. Should I choose an early work of genius like “Crazy,” or a melancholy beauty like “Angel Flying too Close to the Ground”? There’s so much to choose from, but my mind immediately landed on one of his more recent compositions “Roll Me Up and Smoke me When I Die.” What I love about this song is how much it encapsulates what I think is truly Willie’s greatest strength — that he is not afraid to be his authentic self. Here’s a man near the end of his life not only nodding to his own mortality, but fully acknowledging his counter culture side. The man like to smoke pot, which is illegal in a good portion of the country he resides in. He’s never made any apologies for this, but in this song he actually stands tall, and encourages you, the listener, to do the same. “Roll me up and smoke me when I die. And if anyone don’t like it, just look ’em in the eye”

Essentially he’s telling us all to be ourselves, despite the possibility of disapproval. And that’s the magic of Willie. He is open. He is himself. He doesn’t care what you think, or if you approve, he is who he is and he wants you to be who you are. And that energy, that ability to be free and at peace with ourselves, that’s what we’re all looking for.

Brendon Anthony – Texas Music Office Director, Formerly with Pat Green’s band

I grew up with Willie records being played in the house. My favorite record from start to finish is “Red Headed Stranger.” The concept record is something from another time and this one is among the very best, in my opinion. It included the Fred Rose song, “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” and I’m still moved when I hear the guitar kick the song off. It is instantly recognizable, couldn’t be any other song. Trigger is truly Willie’s “other voice”.

I love the standards either written or performed by Willie. “If you’ve got the money”, “On the Road Again”, “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”, Etc. A possibly overlooked gem is his cover of a Bruton song with Bonnie Raitt, “Getting Over You”. Hard to touch that one….

He was a master of making other’s songs his own but he proved throughout his career that he could write the songs that would add to others fame as well. I point to ‘Crazy’ as an example. Patsy’s version is timeless.

He’s still doing it today. The ghost track on Kacey Musgrave’s new record “Pageant Material” is phenomenal, just about the best thing on the record (again, my opinion here). It is a duet with Willie of his 60’s tune “Are You Sure”. Amazing…. Great record and this duet closes it out in fine style…..

Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic (unforgetable)

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

by:  Julian Spivey

Willie Nelson’s 42nd annual Fourth of July Picnic was good for my soul.Imagine if nearly every one of your favorite current artists could be at one music festival on the same day doing staggered sets so you could see absolutely every one of them. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?

It truly was.

When I heard that Willie Nelson’s annual Fourth of July concert would include Merle Haggard, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson, Kacey Musgraves and Eric Church I just knew that I had to buy tickets and make the trek from Central Arkansas to Austin, Texas (eight hours each way).

It was worth every second and penny.

In a time where country music is utter bullshit featuring talentless hacks like Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan wreaking havoc on the radio it was nice to be able to go to a place where you could hear real country music and real songwriting talent. For 14 ½ hours on Saturday, July 4 I was in music heaven. It truly was Independence Day and the best one I’ve ever had and probably ever will.

More than 20 artists took the stage on Saturday at the Austin360 Amphitheater just outside of Austin, Texas on two separate stages to perform sets that ranged from as a few as two songs to about 75 minutes.

Because of the way the sets were staggered and the close proximity of the stages I had the great pleasure of seeing every single performance at Willie’s annual party.

It was blistering hot in that central Texas heat on Saturday, but I didn’t care about a little sunburn or slight heat exhaustion with the talents of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson and on and on singing their hearts out for the biggest concert crowd I’ve ever seen.

How do you even go about reviewing something this massive?

Maybe just the highlights …

The best thing of the entire day was seeing Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson perform three songs together at the end of Merle’s set. When Willie came out on stage to join Haggard on their classic early ‘80s duet “Pancho & Lefty,” written by the great Townes Van Zandt, it was easily and automatically one of the three greatest concert moments I’ve ever seen and honestly was almost enough to have me crying tears of joy had every ounce of liquid not already escaped through my pores in that sweltering Texas sun earlier in the day.

Merle might be 78 and Willie might be 82, but they are still better than just about anybody else you’re ever going to see. It was my third time seeing Haggard and my fourth seeing Nelson and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything else in the world.

At one point in his set Haggard performed Johnny Cash’s iconic “Folsom Prison Blues” and his classic “Mama Tried” back-to-back and I turned to my wife, Aprille, and said: “He just freakin’ played two of the three greatest country songs ever written in succession.”

Speaking of hearing one of the greatest country songs ever written … Jamey Johnson covered George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” the song many experts rank as the greatest country song ever recorded, during his set at the smaller Budweiser stage and it was breathtaking. Johnson did both the song and Jones proud.

Saturday marked the fourth time I’d see both Nelson and Eric Church, my third time seeing Haggard, Johnson and Jason Isbell and my second time seeing Kacey Musgraves. I’ve been truly blessed to see so many terrific artists over this last decade of my life … but I’d never seen Kris Kristofferson (who might be the greatest songwriter country music has ever known).

I didn’t think I’d ever see him. He wasn’t initially supposed to be part of Willie’s Fourth of July Picnic this year.

But, just a couple of days before leaving for Austin I saw online that he’d been added to the lineup. A bucket list moment I hadn’t even expected is what this resulted in. Kristofferson, just equipped with his guitar and the wrong harmonica (which unfortunately cut “Me & Bobby McGee” slightly short), took the stage and sounded amazing (which frankly surprised me because oftentimes when I’ve seen him perform on TV he’s been honestly incoherent).

Kristofferson wrote “Me & Bobby McGee” (made famous by Janis Joplin), “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down” (made famous by Johnny Cash), “Help Me Make It Through the Night” (made famous by Sammi Smith) and “For the Good Times” (made famous by Ray Price) all in the span of about a year and they became massive hits for those respective artists in about the same time. I can say with absolute certainty that no songwriter has ever had that kind of output in such a short amount of time. On Saturday I got to see the genius behind every one of those songs. Unfortunately – and this is one of the few complaints I had on Saturday – some ignorant woman right behind me talked throughout Kristofferson’s entire set (which was quiet with just his voice and acoustic guitar) about how she only came to Willie’s festival to see her favorite David Allan Coe and how great he was (he wasn’t). Kristofferson is a legend. Coe just thinks he is. I couldn’t believe this woman didn’t give a damn about the legend on stage.

Kristofferson’s songwriting is potentially equaled in greatness by Americana darling Jason Isbell – who without a doubt has been my favorite singer-songwriter of the last three years. Isbell is always perfect on stage and his vocals are always exquisite. The highlight of his half hour set on Saturday was two songs I absolutely adore of his that I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing him perform the two previous times I’d seen him: “Dress Blues,” about a young soldier killed in a pointless war (which I thought was a perfect tune for the Fourth of July), and “Decoration Day,” truly one of the greatest story songs of the last dozen or so years. I don’t believe I belted out songs along with the artists louder than these two all day …

Well, maybe I did when Sturgill Simpson performed “Living the Dream” from his excellent 2014 album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, which I have no doubt was the best written and recorded country song released last year and topped my annual list. Simpson is a revelation in a day and age where country music just doesn’t sound like country music anymore. He gives 100 percent every second he’s on stage both vocally and musically and his vocals when he really ramps them up are Waylon Jennings-esque. Sturgill is the real deal and I’m glad he’s developed a cult following of us fans pissed at country’s current state and is selling out venues all across America. He was worth the price of admission alone.

Jamey Johnson was billed as “Tradition & Truth” on the T-shirt bearing his likeness that I just had to purchase on Saturday and that’s an apt description. This true and talented songwriter loves real country music and loves to cover it. Every time I’ve seen him he fills his shows with great covers and I previously mentioned him doing George Jones justice, but one of the truly American things I saw on the Fourth of July at this festival was him covering Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” with the jam-packed crowd singing along in unison.

Saturday’s festival was chock full of badasses on the stage. But, when it comes to badassery it’s damn hard to top both Ray Wylie Hubbard and Billy Joe Shaver. These men are the real deal and I thoroughly enjoyed every single second of both of their sets. There were certainly better songs performed during this day (it’s hard to top Merle Haggard, after all), but the one that truly got itself wedged in between my ears was Hubbard’s “Snake Farm” – who’s joyfulness in performing truly shines through on stage. I’m of the feeling that Jason Aldean is perhaps the biggest poseur in the history of country music with his supposed bad boy schtick that all of real outlaw music fans can see straight through and needs to be kicked down a notch or two (or even six feet below), so hearing Billy Joe Shaver do “Hard to Be An Outlaw” with its lines like “some super stars nowadays get too far off the ground/singing ‘bout the backroads they never have been down/they go and call it ‘country’, but that ain’t the way it sounds/it’s enough to make a renegade want to terrorize the town” really made my day.

Eric Church is a guy that I swear gets a bad rep from some of those “saving country music” guys, but this one right here sees he’s the real deal. It only takes a little deeper listening to realize this. There’s more to his music both lyrically and musically than those other bro-country dudes ruining the genre and I’m surprised people don’t get or hear this in his music. Saturday night was the third time I’ve see “Chief” do “Springsteen” in person and the song still gets me every time. It’s the best mainstream country song since Jamey Johnson released “In Color.”

Kacey Musgraves is my favorite current tomato in country music. Anybody who doesn’t get that reference hasn’t really been paying a whole lot of attention to the state of country music lately and ignorant comments made by executive Keith Hill who claimed if country radio wants to thrive it must eschew all female singers. Musgraves is a little too real for mainstream country, but that’s why she fits in so well with the crowd at Willie’s festival. Musgraves has this cutesy, but at the same time tough as hell thing

(Loretta Lynn had that), about her that works for her so well. Her new album Pageant Material is going to be one of the best albums of the year and she was a real ball of fire on Saturday evening.There were other highlights on Saturday – hearing real Texas Swing in Texas thanks to Asleep at the Wheel, hearing Chris Stapleton belt a tune like no other, watching Willie’s granddaughter Raelyn Nelson rock out to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” and more – but if I were to write about every great thing I saw and heard on Saturday we’d be here all day.

I’ll just say this – if you weren’t at Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic this past Saturday you missed one of the greatest shows there’s ever going to be.

100 Best Performances From Willie’s Fourth of July Picnic:1. Pancho & Lefty – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard

2. Mama Tried – Merle Haggard

3. Folsom Prison Blues – Merle Haggard

4. For the Good Times – Kris Kristofferson

5. Decoration Day – Jason Isbell

6. Me & Bobby McGee – Kris Kristofferson

7. It’s All Going to Pot – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard

8. Dress Blues – Jason Isbell

9. Living the Dream – Sturgill Simpson

10. He Stopped Loving Her Today – Jamey Johnson

11.   Sunday Morning Comin’ Down – Kris Kristofferson

12.   Springsteen – Eric Church

13.   The Weight – Eric Church & Chris Stapleton

14.   Long White Line – Sturgill Simpson

15.   Hard to Be An Outlaw – Billy Joe Shaver

16.   Listening to the Rain – Sturgill Simpson

17.   Snake Farm – Ray Wylie Hubbard

18.   Whiskey River – Willie Nelson

19.   The Pilgrim – Kris Kristofferson

20.   Outfit – Jason Isbell

21.   Big City – Merle Haggard

22.   Stockholm – Jason Isbell

23.   Life of Sin – Sturgill Simpson

24.   This Land is Your Land – Jamey Johnson

25.   Silver Wings – Merle Haggard

26.   Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain – Willie Nelson

27.   Super 8 – Jason Isbell

28.   Follow Your Arrow – Kacey Musgraves

29.   Bad Reputation – Raelyn Nelson Band

30.   Traveller – Chris Stapleton

31.   Are the Good Times Really Over? – Merle Haggard

32.   I Think I’ll Just Stay Here & Drink – Merle Haggard

33.   That Lonesome Song – Jamey Johnson

34.   Old Chunk of Coal – Billy Joe Shaver

35.   Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother – Ray Wylie Hubbard

36.   Route 66 – Asleep at the Wheel

37.   Merry Go ‘Round – Kacey Musgraves

38.   Always On My Mind – Willie Nelson

39.   Bob Wills is Still the King – Asleep at the Wheel

40.   Roll Me Up (And Smoke Me When I Die) – Willie Nelson

41.   This Town – Kacey Musgraves

42.   The Bottle Let Me Down – Merle Haggard

43.   The Trailer Song – Kacey Musgraves

44.   These Boots – Eric Church

45.   Railroad of Sin – Sturgill Simpson

46.   Set ‘em Up Joe – Jamey Johnson

47.   What She Said Last Night – Billy Joe Shaver

48.   High Time – Kacey Musgraves

49.   Tennessee Whiskey – Chris Stapleton

50.   Mama’s Broken Heart – Kacey Musgraves

51.   Help Me Make It Through the Night – Kris Kristofferson

52.   On the Road Again – Willie Nelson

53.   Reasons to Quit – Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson

54.   Why Me – Kris Kristofferson

55.   Pageant Material – Kacey Musgraves

56.   Smoke a Little Smoke – Eric Church

57.   Good Hearted Woman – Willie Nelson

58.   Something More Than Free – Jason Isbell

59.   24 Frames – Jason Isbell

60.   Get a Room – Raelyn Nelson Band

61.   Creepin’ – Eric Church

62.   Georgia On My Mind – Willie Nelson

63.   Ride Me Down Easy – Billy Joe Shaver

64.   Can’t Cash My Checks – Jamey Johnson

65.   Wanna Rock & Roll – Ray Wylie Hubbard

66.   Knock Me Up – Folk Uke

67.   These Boots Are Made for Walking – Kacey Musgraves

68.   Me & Paul – Willie Nelson

69.   Loving Her Was Easier – Kris Kristofferson

70.   Over When It’s Over – Eric Church

71.   Screw You, We’re From Texas – Ray Wylie Hubbard

72.   Jambalaya (On the Bayou) – Leon Russell

73.   Hank Williams Medley (Jambalaya, Hey Good Lookin’ & Move It Over) – Willie Nelson

74.   Still is Still Moving to Me – Willie Nelson

75.   That’s The Way Love Goes – Merle Haggard

76.   Homeboy – Eric Church

77.   If You’ve Got the Money (I’ve Got the Time) – Willie Nelson

78.   The Silver Tongue Devil & I – Kris Kristofferson

79.   I Got a Woman – Leon Russell

80.   Just to Satisfy You – Paula Nelson

81.   Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Papa Was a Rolling Stone – Leon Russell

82.   Twinkle, Twinkly Lucky Star – Merle Haggard

83.   Outlaw State of Mind – Chris Stapleton

84.   Cold One – Eric Church

85.   Orange Blossom Special – Greezy Wheels

86.   Like a Wrecking Ball – Eric Church

87.   Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man) – Merle Haggard

88.   I’m Getting Stoned – Eric Church

89.   Crazy/Night Life/Funny How Time Slips Away – Willie Nelson

90.   Jack Daniels – Eric Church

91.   Georgia On a Fast Train – Willie Nelson

92.   Drink In My Hand – Eric Church

93.   Step Off/Three Little Birds – Kacey Musgraves

94.   There Stands the Glass – Johnny Bush

95.   Will the Circle Be Unbroken?/I’ll Fly Away – Willie Nelson

96.   Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends – Kris Kristofferson

97.   Stranger in a Strange Land – Leon Russell

98.   Stupid – Kacey Musgraves

99.   Fire Away – Chris Stapleton

100. You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Hudson Moore

Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic 2015

Monday, July 6th, 2015

erikarich2photo:  Erika Rich
See more great photos from Erika here.
by: Peter Blackstock

For a solid 10 hours, everything went off without a hitch Saturday at the first Picnic at the Racetrack. Returning to Austin for the first time in five years, Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic booked a remarkably strong lineup at Circuit of the Americas, and around 20,000 fans turned out to join in the celebration.

After the sun went down, though, everything went a little haywire. The Picnic crew had made it through 20 acts without ever falling more than 10 minutes behind, admirably shuffling short sets by the first 10 performers from 11:15 a.m. to just past 3 p.m. on a makeshift stage in the venue’s Grand Plaza. A wide grass lawn offered plenty of room for standing or sitting, plus quite a few picnic tables in back.

After 3 p.m., sets began rotating between the plaza and the main Austin360 Amphitheater stage. Things stayed on track for another six hours, as legends such as Kris Kristofferson, Leon Russell and Billy Joe Shaver split time with a superb cast of rising stars including Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Kacey Musgraves.

It was after Musgraves’ terrific 8 p.m. set that the back-and-forth shuffle between the two stages ceased, and the crew couldn’t keep up with the pace the rest of the way. A scheduled 15-minute reset on the main stage between Musgraves and Merle Haggard stretched to almost 40 minutes. By the time a scheduled short fireworks display followed Haggard’s set, the show was a full hour behind.

Adding to the down side was the necessity of sitting through an hour of Eric Church before Willie and his family band brought the show to its natural apex. Context is everything: When Church played the iHeartRadio Country Festival at the Erwin Center last year, he stood out as one of the night’s better acts, sounding about as good as mainstream country radio has to offer. But set against the likes of the Picnic’s otherwise brilliantly assembled lineup of songwriters, his songs about drinkin’ a cold one, drinkin’ a product-placement brand of whiskey and just drinkin’ the drink in his hand revealed him to be an empty suit.

For brief moments, he tried to break out, such as when he prefaced his quasi-anthem “Springsteen” with a heartfelt run through the first verse and chorus of Robert Earl Keen’s “Corpus Christi Bay” that begged for a full rendition. And he chose wisely in his set closer with The Band’s “The Weight,” inviting late-afternoon main stage highlight Chris Stapleton back out to sing one of the verses.

It was with Stapleton’s 4:40 p.m. set that the Picnic fully hit its stride. Kris Kristofferson had played the first set on the Amphitheater stage immediately before, performing solo with no fanfare but setting a proper tone that if you’re going to play Willie’s Picnic, you better bring along some top-shelf original songs. Stapleton, who’s written a lot of hits for other artists but is just now getting his shot in the spotlight with his acclaimed album “Traveller,” proved up to the task, shining with a soulful backing band that brought out the drama of songs such as “Nobody to Blame” and the record’s title track.

Next on the big stage was Sturgill Simpson, whose recent sold-out Stubb’s shows and “Austin City Limits” taping showcased a 2014 breakthrough album “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” that brilliantly synthesizes country and psychedelia. Simpson mostly avoided the latter on this day, choosing instead to delve more into his bluegrass roots — “I know we’re in Texas, but I’m from Kentucky!” he explained — in a 40-minute set that spotlighted his full-throated vocals and his band’s hot picking.

From a pure songwriting perspective, no one beat the main stage’s next performer, reigning Americana Music Association Artist of the Year Jason Isbell. As much as his 2013 album “Southeastern” sparked a career peak, it’s his upcoming “Something More Than Free,” due July 17, that stands to launch him into another league, judging from Saturday’s renditions of the album’s passionate title track and the spectacular first single, “24 Frames.” Isbell also reached back to his Drive-By Truckers days for “Outfit” and “Decoration Day,” both of which offered fitting alternate-view perspectives on the Independence Day atmosphere.

Amid this auspicious stretch of main stage up-and-comers was a strong anchor of sets from Picnic mainstays on the smaller stage. In succession, the swelling plaza crowd was treated to the classic honky-tonk of Johnny Bush, the outlaw mysticism of Billy Joe Shaver, the piano Hank-and-Stones shuffle of Leon Russell and the western swing revival of Asleep at the Wheel. Closing out the Plaza Stage run just before sundown was Jamey Johnson, who smartly kept the backing low-key so his vocals could shine on stirring covers of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

That was a perfect segue into the big-stage performance of Musgraves, who’s all the rage even in mainstream country circles these days but is smart enough not to lower herself to that common denominator. Dressed for the part in a spangly starred white outfit that played off her new album’s “Pageant Material” title, Musgraves proved fully worthy of a Picnic headlining slot with smart songs such as “Mama’s Broken Heart” and “Step Off” that pointedly refrained from Nashville bombast-and-cliche. And when she got to her smash hit “Follow Your Arrow,” it was a perfect fit for Willie’s Picnic, with its sly little exhortation in the chorus to “roll up a joint.”

It was all downhill from there, with the way-too-long pause before Haggard’s decent but unremarkable set sparked primarily by Willie’s cameo at the end for Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho & Lefty” and the novel single “It’s All Going to Pot” from their chart-topping new duo album. The fireworks, and Church’s lack thereof, chased some of the crowd home before Willie finally took the stage at 12:23 a.m. on July 5 – though the vast majority of the crowd did stick around in a heartfelt show of solidarity for their beloved host.

He and his Family Band — pianist Bobbie Nelson, harmonica player Mickey Raphael, bassist Kevin Smith and drummer/percussionists Paul and Billy English — rewarded them with about an hour of trademark Willie, from the obligatory “Whiskey River” and “On the Road Again” to medleys of his own timeless classics (“Funny How Time Slips Away”/“Crazy”/“Night Life”) and those of Hank Williams. Around 1:15 a.m., an official came onstage and apparently obliged them to wrap things up, so Willie invited out performers still on hand backstage including Kristofferson, Johnson and Church for “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away” before a finale that he described as “my new gospel song” — “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”

A quick look at early-afternoon highlights, which featured 15-to-20-minute sets from a cross-section of performers:

Three-named Texans Ray Wylie Hubbard and David Allan Coe got the Picnic faithful smiling and dancing with hallmark numbers such as “Screw You, We’re From Texas” and “Take This Job and Shove It,” respectively. A trio of Nelson family acts helped the crowd ease into the heat of the afternoon, with Paula Nelson paying tribute to Waylon Jennings and Mickey Newbury after Raelyn Nelson rocked out on Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” and the duo “Folk Uke” (Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie, Arlo’s daughter) sang comic songs that were mostly unprintable but quite entertaining. Sirius/XM DJ Dallas Wayne, a fine songwriter in his own right, played two excellent tunes and deserved more time. Armadillo World Headquarters veterans Greezy Wheels played a short but energetic set that helped put the Picnic in historical perspective. And Hudson Moore, Amber Digby and Pauline Reese provided a spark for those just arriving to the Circuit of the Americas grounds before noon.

Despite the late-night scheduling snafu, COTA proved a good spot for the Picnic, though its outrageous concessions prices are a failing grade on an otherwise strong report card. If a family of four spent the full day at the picnic and needed two meals, a couple of snacks, a few beers and sodas, and consistent hydration from bottled water — there are a few water fountains on site, but they’re tucked away — just the cost of those essentials could easily run $200-$300 for the day. With no food or drink allowed in, that amounts to racetrack robbery.

American-Statesman/ staffer Dave Thomas contributed to this report.




Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

by:  Holly Gleason

“Everybody wants to be wilder than it’s accepted to be,” Merle Haggard, raggedy growl tempered with warmth, says without ceremony. “They wanna do and be more than people think is right. You know that saying ‘Well behaved women seldom make history’? It’s not just for women, you know.”

It’s afternoon in Lake Shasta, Calif., and Haggard has been kept twice as long by reporters as he was supposed to be. But the cantankerous legend is in a joyous mood, and he’s willing to ponder his reputation in light of Django & Jimmie, his duo project with Willie Nelson that hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and No. 7 on the Top 200 Albums charts.

“Well-behaved men?” asks Haggard incredulously. “Never been around ’em. Step out of line, you’ll be remembered because you stood out! Though as old as I am, it’s hard to step anywhere, let alone out.”

Haggard laughs a dust cloud of red dirt, hard life and light. It rolls down the phone line like a tumble weed. Cagey even at 78, he’s not beyond a joke, even if it’s on him.

Of course, he and Nelson weren’t afraid to mix it up a little, leveraging their elder status to drop “It’s All Going To Pot” back in April. The song, as much social commentary as an endorsement of smoking dope over other highs, is a frolic that uses common sense and humor to make points beyond the obvious.

“That’s one of those [songs] you just know people are going to love,” Nelson says with a chuckle from his bus somewhere in Idaho a few weeks later. “I’m surprised how fast medical marijuana is going, and decriminalization…People are figuring out it isn’t going away, I guess.

“Plus there’s a whole lot of money those bottom-liners can pick up, and that works for some people. Colorado’s doing very well and showing the rest of the country how this can go. Other parts of the world are more evolved and handle it, like Israel and Copenhagen…Here we’re a little dumber, a little more redneck in our attitudes. There are medical benefits, everything else.”

Haggard, more hardcore honky tonk to Nelson’s zen country, is even more direct: “I like the insinuation of giving up pills and giving up whiskey, that stuff. The financial aspects of the alcohol industry, the Valium and Diazepam people, that’s big business. But Grandma doesn’t get whipped and the little girl doesn’t get molested when people are high.

“And now that people are seeing the industrial reality? The monetary implications are immense.”

But beyond the clever Buddy Cannon/Shawn Camp/Jamey Johnson song, there’s much more to their collaborating. Having recorded five albums together over 50 years, including 1983’s No. 1 Pancho & Lefty, they tap a vein of creativity that brings out the best in each other. On Django & Jimmie, each covers one of the other’s classics: Haggard does “Family Bible” and Nelson roadhouses “Swinging Doors,” as well as a freewheeling take on Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”

“There are things that don’t get considered on our own,” Haggard explains. “We’re both writers and we have an excellent understanding of great songs, so when you bring us together, our focus isn’t on who wrote it, but what’s there and how does it work? Like a love song? We can sing it together. It’s about her, the woman you love, which is different than to her.”

Nelson concurs. “There’s a creative thing that happens. When you can do something with another person [like Haggard], something comes from that creative energy. It’s pretty simple like that: two people can make more music than one!”

And for all the classics and covers, it is the new songs like “Wilder,” “Where Dreams Go To Die” and “Unfair Weather Friend” that show both icons firing at the top of their creative game. The LP also captures the essence of the Man in Black in “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” with guest vocals from Bobby Bare, Nelson’s shufflin’ blues on “It’s Only Money,” and the crux of Haggard and Nelson’s relationship on “The Only Man Wilder Than Me.”

Culling some of Nashville’s best players, employing Nelson’s longtime producer Buddy Cannon, and setting up in Austin, the pair decided to have fun and savor the songs. Though there are no plans for the future, they’re enjoying the moment just fine.

“I write a little bit every day,” Nelson says. “It may not be any good, but I write and I get it out. When there’s something to write I try to put it down…and it feels good.

“Here we are with a No. 1 record, and that’s inspiring. The idea people want to hear what you have to say. Especially since we’re not getting any AM or FM airplay, really. I wanna enjoy this one for a little bit, just enjoy it without moving on to the next thing.”

Additionally, Haggard offers, “I’d like to leave a legacy of something. I can picture the music in my heart…I think it’ll keep my legacy alive. You look at Gene Autrey and Lefty Frizzell, Bob Wills and Ernest Tubb, those people playing dance halls when America was still really alive, that lasts.

“Willie and I both started playing music and got our first jobs trying to be guitar players, not singers, not songwriters, not stars. So people like Django and Roy Nichols were important to us both. We chased the same heroes and it shows. It’s why it’s the perfect title song for the album.”

In the end, the music still matters to them—mixing it up with good players, taking their songs out on the road. Nelson acknowledges the power and the draw of what both men are known for.

“I think it keeps you young! Something that makes you sing along, clap your hands and jump up and down? Nothing else does that, and when you’re doing that, you’re feeling alive.”

Why Willie Nelson Still Matters (July 3, 1997)

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

WAG THE DOG, Willie Nelson, 1997, (c)New Line Cinema/courtesy Everett Collection

Saint Willie: Why the cult of the redheaded stranger still matters
by:  John T. Davis

July 3, 1997

As inconceivable as it seemed in the late ’70s and ’80s, when he bestrode the musical world like a chicken-fried colossus, Willie Nelson has become something of a trivia question to many of the inhabitants of the world of ’90s country music. Not in Austin, mind you, where “In Willie We Trust” might as well be engraved on the municipal letterhead, and mystics occasionally report the mysterious appearance of his beatific visage on fresh-baked tortillas. Nor in Texas as a whole, a state with an enduring taste for eccentrics with a twinkle in their eye.

But there are younger country music fans in the hinterlands and not-so-young executives on Music Row in Nashville who are apt to shrug “Willie who?” when the outlaw patriarch’s name is brought up.

Willie Nelson through the years photo

Scott Newton

To the casual observer, the skeptics make a good case: Having lost his berth at Columbia Records in 1993, Nelsonhas seemingly drifted at whim, recording marginally selling albums for a variety of smaller labels. His latest (his third for Justice Records, the Houston-based indie label) is a re-release of his 1971 concept album, “Yesterday’s Wine.”

His songs are nowhere to be found on the mainstream “Hot Young Country” radio formats, and at 64 (he is old enough to recall the birth of Social Security; next year he will be eligible to collect it), Nelson is deemed hopelessly inaccessible to the demographic tail that wags the dog of the radio and record industries these days.

His Fourth of July Picnic, once a unique, Lone Star-waving gathering of the tribes, has shrunk to a vestigial ritual that keeps regenerating itself for no particularly compelling reason (the latest edition — the 25th anniversary Picnic, by rough count — will be held tomorrow in Luckenbach). The Picnic, featuring a graying cohort ofNelson familiars, pales in scope and charisma next to 100,000-strong bacchanaliasNelson used to assemble on Independence Day (a far cry from the bloated, corporate-sponsored mega-festivals, like last month’s CountryFest up near Dallas, which are the fashion today).

His concert set, as this listener of 20-plus years will attest, has not changed in essence in decades.

The skeptics will tell you there is less and less reason to pay attention toWillieNelson: Ain’t it funny, they’ll tell you (before moving on to anoint the next Flavor of the Month), how time slips away?

Well, the skeptics are full of sheep dip.

WillieNelsonstillmatters, in ways that Soundscan sales charts and radio Arbitron ratings can’t measure. (I would have been happy to address questions of his ongoing relevance to Willie his ownself, except that he was away in Hawaii and on the road; efforts to cross paths with him by phone proved unsuccessful).

If he doesn’t put hits in the Top 10 like he once did, he remains one of the last repositories of iconoclastic vision and unfettered imagination to which country music has access.

Texas has conjured up such prodigies in the past, in many musical disciplines — Scott Joplin, Ornette Coleman, Bob Wills, T-Bone Walker and Janis Joplin all achieved renown by breaking down barriers and forcing listeners to confront music on the artist’s terms.

This has been Willie’s particular genius as well. Listen to him for any length of time and his music — filtered as it is through the lenses of blues, country, jazz, American pop standards, folk and gospel — emerges as a clear and cogent creative vision informed by all these influences but constrained by none. Suddenly, the listener is viewing the musical landscape through Willie’s panoramic perspective.

Consider his last major-label album, 1993’s wonderful “Across the Borderline, ” an ostensibly “country” album which blends songs by Paul Simon, Willie Dixon, Ry Cooder, Lyle Lovett, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and Nelson himself.

Coming from almost any other artist, this shotgun wedding of genres and tunesmiths would have come across as a mishmash born of unchecked egotism. But Willie weaves the disparate strands into a coherent tapestry, which engages the listener with a sort of organic inevitability that is immensely satisfying. “It’s always time to stretch, ” said Nelson modestly at the time of the album’s release, hardly needing to add that stretching has been a way of life with him.

“Spirit, ” his understated 1996 album on Island Records, achieved much the same effect in a more low-key fashion, folding flamenco and mariachi textures into a suite of songs that glow with luminous spirituality. We are told that Nelson has a blues album and even — Gawd! — a reggae album in the can awaiting the light of day. Well, why not?

It’s harder and harder to find anyone in Nashville (or even on the self-consciously left-of-center Americana chart) who will roll the creative dice with the same aplomb that Nelson has displayed for at least a couple of musical epochs.

But that effortless eclecticism is only half the story. At an age when many artists have entombed their work in CD box sets (funny how much those things look like coffins …) and content themselves with collecting royalty checks, Nelsonstilldisplays an energy, an imagination and a restless curiosity that is the envy of musicians half his age.

Hey, don’t take my word for it; let’s go to the tale of the tape, as the boxing writers used to say.

There are the classics he has authored — from “Crazy” to “Night Life, ” “Hello Walls, ” “Funny How Time Slips Away, ” “Three Days, ” “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” and a score of others — songs whose blues-inflected phrasing (aNelson signature) and dark and stately lyricism would enthrall singers from Patsy Cline to the Supersuckers over the course of the years.

The aforementioned “Yesterday’s Wine” was but the first of four concept albums that examined everything from a crumbling marriage to spiritual redemption and reincarnation. The most celebrated of that quartet, “Red Headed Stranger, ” boasts a permanent place in any Top 10 Country Albums of All Time list.

Almost as an afterthought, Nelson created an album of standards, 1978’s “Stardust, ” which has become a standard unto itself. He has recorded with everyone from Faron Young to U2’s Bono. His ongoing Farm Aid concert series endures as a populist-based Middle American landmark.

But the resume doesn’t tell the whole story.

Resumes are ossified, static; Willie is anything but. “I can be moving or can be still, ” he once sang, “But still is still movin’ to me.”

“The most challenging thing, ” he once said, “would be to come up with something entirely different that I haven’t thought of yet, and do it before I have a chance to think about it, and back out.”

Kris Kristofferson once said that Willie’s face belongs on stamps and money. His point, in part, is that Nelson embodies the best of everything that an artist should bring to the table: vision, chops, commitment, imagination, compassion, restless energy, fresh perspectives and a joie de vivre thatfinds its fullest expression in the creative process.

For those reasons, and for many others, Williestillmatters, and always will.

So even if you’re not at Luckenbach tomorrow, pour a tequila shot and hoist a toast to WillieNelson. They ain’t making any more of him.


Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss at Marymoor Park in Seattle (6/27/15)

Monday, June 29th, 2015

marymoorphoto:  Gary Miller

Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss Enchant Seattle Stage

Two very different bands form an enjoyably mismatched partnership on summer tour
by:  Mike Seely

While their frequent bluegrass jams leave plenty of room for musical imagination, Alison Krauss and Union Station are the portrait of technical precision live. Krauss is a virtuosic fiddle player who boasts a voice that flutters high above her band’s well-choreographed ballet of strings, with Jerry Douglas’ Dobro piercing through the pine.

Saturday night at tree-lined Marymoor Park in suburban Seattle, Krauss, dressed like a classical musician in a black dress shirt and slacks, relayed a remark that an anonymous observer made about Douglas’ connection to his lap guitar. “I always forget it’s an instrument,” said the onlooker. “I always think it’s his voice.”

As for Krauss’ voice, dry air had rendered it nearly inoperative in Utah a week ago. Fortunately for the Seattle crowd, which cooled itself with portable fans in the midst of 90-degree heat, her pipes had regained their strength by Saturday. Kicking off their set with the tender “Let Me Touch You for Awhile,” the band quickly showed its range by delving into “Who’s Your Uncle?”, a rip-roaring instrumental composition from Douglas that Krauss told the crowd she’d nicknamed “Ride the Donkey.”

“If you knew my uncle, you could call it that,” joked Douglas in reply.

Union Station doesn’t feature a drummer, with Krauss’ rhythmic violin-tapping the closest the band gets to percussion. On Saturday, they took a plodding ballad, “Ghost in This House,” and relaxed the tempo even more. After Krauss shared an anecdote about being starstruck while singing alongside Seattle native Ann Wilson during the taping of the Heart concert special Night at Sky Church, Dan Tyminski stepped in on lead vocals for the foot-stomping “Rain Please Go Away” and the tragicomic “Wild Bill Jones,” glowering at the crowd like a territorial bulldog, no matter how sweetly he sang.

Among the highlights of any Union Station show are Krauss’ quirky introductions of her longtime bandmates, most of whom she’s been playing with for upwards of 20 years. Introducing banjo player Ron Block, she revealed that he’s from Torrance, California, “where they like to make a lot of vegetarians, but not our Ronnie.” She later engaged in a hilariously nuanced conversation about fowl hunting with bassist Barry Bales, and remarked of Tyminski’s strange-bedfellow collaboration (“Hey Brother”) with the Swedish DJ Avicii, “We didn’t know who Avicii was. We though it was a mysterious skin growth or something.”

After Krauss and Union Station’s short encore that included a gorgeous, a cappella version of “Down to the River to Pray,” co-headliner Willie Nelson and his family band quickly got joints blazing and toes tapping on a more earthbound kind of grass. (Kenny Chesney was simultaneously playing at a football stadium a few miles away, but the amount of shoeless feet at Marymoor doubtless had No Shoes Nation licked.) A Lone Star flag was dramatically unfurled as Nelson and his disarmingly casual crew started their set with “Whiskey River.” In stark contrast to Krauss and her collaborators, fully half of Nelson’s band consists of percussionists, with a drumline fronted by Paul English, a real-life outlaw who doubles as the group’s enforcer. Whereas Krauss and Union Station present themselves as the best musicians that could possibly have been curated for inclusion in their band, Nelson’s sidemen, while perfectly competent, appear as though they’ve been enlisted simply because the braided legend likes having them around.

Most aging musicians who choose to stay on the road justifiably recruit younger players who compensate for whatever artistic shortcomings advanced maturation might wreak. Not Nelson. At 82, his guitar-playing remains nimble and adventurous, to the point where it could qualify as free jazz; he never plays the same solo twice, straying far from a tune’s rhythm before miraculously finding his way back to the beat.

While Nelson’s set featured most of his classic hits, including “Always on My Mind” and “On the Road Again,” he played nearly as many covers as originals, with Mickey Raphael’s harmonica buoying Lefty Frizzell’s “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time.” Like most of his bandmates, Raphael, a tall, striking presence clad in black denim, meanders around the stage as though he’s oblivious to the thousands of faces staring back at him.

Toward the end of the set, after Nelson introduced “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” as a “new gospel song” he’d written, two of his offspring, Micah and Amy, stepped to a microphone near their dad, slung their arms around one another and sang call-and-response backing vocals while Amy recorded the proceedings on a smartphone. At that point, attendees must have felt as though they’d crashed a raucous family party, with the coolest granddad ever leading sing-alongs on a resin-stained guitar.

Read more:
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

“Heat? Willie Nelson’s going to be right there in a few minutes — so that’s worth it.”

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

(this photo from last year’s Willie Nelson show in Troutdale, Oregon)

TROUTDALE, Ore. — Friday’s blazing heat in the Willamette Valley did not stop people from having fun. Our star could never compete with the one all these people are waiting for.

“Willie Nelson’s going to be like right there in a few minutes, so that’s worth it,” said one fan at McMenamins’ Edgefield amphitheater. Most of its lawn seats were in the sun’s line of fire in the heat of the day.

“Yeah, I like the heat; though my wife hates it, but I love it,” said Matt Berson of Portland.

How hot? Constant-sunscreen-application, never-ending-water-or-beer-intake, too-hot-for-sandals kind of hot. Folks bought the tickets for Willie Nelson months ago, just hoping it would not rain. They needed an umbrella all right, but to shade themselves from the sun’s rays.

Monica Richards, also from Portland said, “It’s awesome, great being out in the sun. It’s hot, but it’s still nice.”

A couple from Canada didn’t know the Portland area even reached the mid-90s.

“It’s sweltering. Is this normal for here?” asked Erik Craulsca, from Canada. “It’s really hot.”

Barb Reigert sat in the sun since 9 a.m.

“He loves Willie, so I’m here for him.”

Thanks to Barb, her husband, Dwight, was positioned perfectly at the top of the knoll.

“She would have rather had me in the shade, but we’ll be in the shade in a little bit. I always try to get over there or right here – straight on,” said Dwight Reigert.

“It’s a little bit warm,” Gary Buckler said. “But nothing out of the ordinary.”

In Portland, skyscraper-assisted shade helped people stay cool outside Providence Park. The Timbers Army set up camp Thursday night. They will get wristbands Saturday morning that will give them prime seating for Sunday’s Cascadia Cup showdown.

“Rose City till I die,” one longtime fan told us. “We’ll be here every game rain or shine. It could be snowing, you’ll still see people camped out. It’s a passion.”

In this heat, it would have to be.

Willie at 70: The Phases and Stages of Willie Nelson

Thursday, June 25th, 2015


By Michael Corcoran

Willie understood. When Frank Sinatra kept touring well into his 70s, reading the words of his classic songs off giant TelePrompTers, critics and fans wondered why he didn’t retire. How much money did he need? But Willie Nelson knew that concert receipts had nothing to do with his friend and idol’s busy schedule. “When you sing for people and they throw back all that love and energy,” he says, “it’s just the best medicine in the world.”

With Nelson’s 70th birthday coming Wednesday, the eternal red-headed rascal has been inundated with tributes, including a celebrity-heavy affair in New York earlier this month that will be shown on the USA Network on May 26, Memorial Day.

The phases and stages of Willie’s career have found him evolving from the honkytonk sideman to the hit Nashville songwriter, from progressive country pioneer to crooner of standards. And now the iconoclast has become the icon, with Willie achieving American folk hero status.

This pot-smoking Zen redneck in pigtails, who sings Gershwin through his nose and plays a guitar that looks like he picked it up at a garage sale, transcends music and has come to personify the individual, the rectangular peg to the round hole of corporatization.

Willie’s the one producers called to sing “America the Beautiful” at the moving finale of the televised “A Tribute To Heroes” show after the Sept. 11 attacks. He’s played for worldwide audiences at former President Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. And he can have his bacon and eggs at any greasy spoon in the country and feel right at home.

Meanwhile, the journalists keep leading with the same questions about what keeps him going at the pace of a much younger man. Willie and the band he calls the Family are scheduled to play almost 180 dates this year, and the shows are two-and-a-half-hour affairs.

“I’ve been trying to take it easy for years, but this is what I love to do,” he says. “When I go home to rest, I get a little stir-crazy after a few days.”

Here’s a man whose office in Luck, the Western town he built near his “Willie World” complex of golf courses, condos and recording studios on Lake Travis, carries a plaque that reads, “He who lives by the song, dies by the road.” True to that motto, one of Roger Miller’s favorite sayings, Willie’s been home in the Hill Country a total of only two weeks this year.

It’s no wonder that “On the Road Again” is the easiest song Willie’s ever written. The producers of the 1980 film “Honeysuckle Rose” were looking for a theme song about vagabond musicians, and their star wrote the first words that popped into his mind: “The life I love is making music with my friends/ I can’t wait to get on the road again.” It’s a simple existence made all the more comfortable because Willie is surrounded by people who’ve been with him for decades. Bassist Bee Spears has lived 35 of his 53 years in Willie’s band, which also features the barrelhouse piano of Willie’s 72-year-old sister, Bobbie, and Willie’s legendary running buddy, 71-year-old Paul English, on drums. Percussionist Billy English, Paul’s brother, is the new guy, having joined just 19 years ago. Harmonica player Mickey Raphael and guitarist Jody Payne are also relative newcomers, both joining the ragtag caravan 30 years ago.

“You can’t get out of this band even if you die,” Willie says with a laugh. “I’ve told the guys that we’ll just have ‘em stuffed and put back up on that stage.”

Willie’s circle of fiercely loyal lifers include roadies (78-year-old Ben Dorcy has been with Willie since the early ’60s), sound engineers and managers. Meanwhile, his oldest daughter, Lana, travels with Willie and keeps up the Web site. “We all act like we can’t wait to get off the road and catch a break from each other,” says stage manager Randall “Poodie” Locke, who joined up in 1975. “But after three or four days, we’re looking for excuses to call each other. Everybody’s wives or girlfriends are going, ‘Uh, Honey, don’t you got any gigs comin’ up?’ ” Where’s Willie?

On the road again, they just couldn’t wait to get on the road that takes them to the Lone Star Park horse racing track near Dallas on a crisp recent evening. Some of the fans come early, looking for Willie’s bus, the one that has “Honeysuckle Rose” and an American Indian figure painted on the side.

A group of giddy grandmas stand outside the band’s business bus before the one with the “Ladies Love Outlaws” T-shirt gets up the courage to knock on the door. “Where’s Willie?” she asks the driver, who answers that he won’t arrive until showtime. When the women leave, Poodie says, “Willie makes every fan feel like they’re his friend. Because they are.”

With piercing brown eyes that seem to have the ability to make eye contact with thousands simultaneously and a world class smile that’s both frisky and comforting, Nelson turns concerts into lovefests and makes fans feel like they grew up next door to him.

To gaze at the social makeup of the line waiting outside the horse race track is to marvel at the range of Nelson’s appeal. There are older couples dressed in tight, rounded jeans and multicolored western shirts, who look like they used to see a pre-bearded Willie at the old Big G’s dance hall in Round Rock or the Broken Spoke. There are tons of college kids in ballcaps and straw Resistol hats, plus truck-driver types, budding socialites, bikers and hipsters with their neck tattoos.

But there are also many who just came to play the ponies and don’t even know Willie’s booked to sing after the night’s final race. When a young man with gold front teeth and a Tampa Bay Buccaneers hat worn sideways approaches the turnstile, the ticket taker jokes, “Are you here to see Willie Nelson?” A few Willie fans giggle as the man shakes his head and says, nah, he’s here to bet on horses. Then, as he passes, he leans back and says, “But I do like Willie Nelson.”

As long as he’s healthy and the people keep coming out. That’s how long Willie says he’ll keep this carnival, which commands upwards of $50,000 per show (and $100,000 for private parties), out on the road. Meanwhile, the 70th birthday peg has led to renewed interest in Nelson’s recorded legacy, with Sony reissuing an “Essential Willie Nelson” double disc and the Sugar Hill label getting critical raves for the recently unearthed “Crazy: the Demo Sessions” from the early ’60s. A recently remastered version of the 6 million-selling “Stardust,” Willie’s best-selling album, is turning a whole new audience onto the songs of Hoagie Carmichael and Irving Berlin, just as it did in 1978.

Although last year’s “The Great Divide,” an attempt to duplicate the “Supernatural” success of Carlos Santana by dueting with such hitmakers as Sheryl Crow and Rob Thomas, sold a relatively disappointing 361,000 copies, Willie and the Family are playing to some of their biggest crowds since the mid-’70s glory days of “Good Hearted Woman” and “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.” Now that Waylon, the Butch Cassidy to Willie’s Sundance Kid, has passed away, it’s up to Nelson to keep the outlaw country bus a-churnin’ down the highway. And with his role as the vortex of Texas singer-songwriting assured, Willie has picked up the younger high school and college crowd that goes batty for the likes of Pat Green and Robert Earl Keen.

Informed that a band member said, “It’s like 1975 all over again,” Willie lets out a laugh. “If he can remember 1975, he wasn’t in my band. But it does seem that the girls are getting younger and prettier. And they know all the words! I hear a thousands kids singing along to ‘Bloody Mary Morning’ and I think, ‘Y’all weren’t even born when that one was written.’ It just makes me feel great to know that these old songs are clicking with a whole new crowd.”

As with the Grateful Dead, Nelson’s spike in popularity so late in his career comes partly because he and the band promote a free-spirited lifestyle. But where the Dead (whose surviving members will join Willie at this year’s Fourth of July Picnic at the new Two River Canyon venue, just down the highway from Willie World) became synonymous with extended jams and mind-expanding drugs, the Willie way is built around short songs and long drives, a cowboy/ Indian fashion mix and tear-in-your-beer roadhouses. Above all, the band’s escapist bent is intensified with instinctive musicianship, a play-it-as-we-feel-it attitude that extends beyond the stage. “Playing with Willie is tricky business,” bassist Spears says of the frontman who never met a beat he couldn’t tease. “If you try to follow him too close, he’ll lead you down to the river and drown you. You have to keep one eye on him and one eye on your part. Just play your part and trust that he’s going to come back and meet you at some point.”

Willie says the musical kinship between him and sister Bobbie, who ride the bus together, is almost telepathic. “Sometimes, she seems to know what I’m going to play before I do. I’ve played music with my sister almost every night of my life. There’s just this intense connection that really gets the whole ball rolling.” Raphael says that if someone should die, the members of the Family have decided to carry on in missing man formation, as fighter pilots do after a comrade crashes. “But if anything happens to Trigger,” he says of the acoustic guitar that Willie’s picked a hole through, “that could be the show.”

The Martin classical guitar, which he bought sight-unseen for $750 in 1969, is Nelson’s most precious possession. That he lets friends, about 40 so far, carve their names into the guitar says as much about Willie Nelson, the unmaterialistic scamp, as the way he plays it with gypsy fingers and a jazzman’s curiosity.

“God bless ‘em,” singer Marty Robbins once said of country music fans. “They’ll do anything for you but leave you alone.”

But no country star has ever handled the demand from fans to touch, to talk to, to have a picture made better than Willie. He spent the first part of his career trying to become successful and the rest proving that success hasn’t changed him a whit. He’s got a bunch of burly guys, including a former Hell’s Angel named L.G., working for him, but Willie doesn’t allow them to lead him through crowds, even when about 3,000 people stand between him and the stage, as they did at the Lone Star Park show.

When the crowd lets out a roar because they’ve seen Willie in their midst, Mickey Raphael walks up to the window of the band bus, peers out at his boss signing autographs in the sea of hats and says, “Looks like we’ve got about 45 minutes,” then goes back to telling a reporter how he came to run away with this circus.

“My first exposure to the group was the cover of that (1971) ‘Willie Nelson and Family’ record. They were the freakiest looking country band I’d ever seen. Paul looked like the devil and was wearing a cape; Bee had on some furry diapers. I said, ‘Now, what do these guys sound like?’ ” After sitting in with Willie and the Family at a firefighter’s benefit in Waxahachie, Raphael starting playing at all the band’s dates in the Dallas area.

“Willie asked me one night, ‘Hey, Paul, what are we paying that kid?’ ” says English, the infamous raconteur immortalized in Willie’s song “Me and Paul.” The pistol-toting English has handled band biz on the road since 1966, when Willie enticed him to leave his business supplying call girls to Houston businessmen. “I said we weren’t paying Mickey anything, and Willie said, ‘Then double his salary.’ “

Bee Spears, who joined the Family in 1968 when original bassist David Zettner was drafted into the Army, talks about his first Christmas out on the road with Willie: “We tried to make a snowman out of shaving cream, and we drew pictures of the presents we would give each other when we made it big. Willie had us believing that it wouldn’t be ‘if’ we made it, but ‘when.’ He knew that eventually someone was going to figure him out.”

Austin understood. It was here in the early ’70s that Willie Nelson found a kindred musical attitude. Even though he spends more of his time off the road these days in Maui, where his fourth and current wife, Annie, and their boys Luke, 14, and Micah, 13, live, he remains Austin’s spiritual adviser and greatest musical ambassador. “Willie loves it in Maui, but he considers Austin his home,” says Lisa Fletcher, who’s married to Bobbie’s son Freddy Fletcher. “He’s got six children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, and they almost all live around Austin, so he gets down here every chance he can.”

Austin and Willie go together in the minds of the masses, like Elvis in Memphis, but where Presley lived a fortressed life, Willie doesn’t think anything about jamming for hours at Poodie’s Hilltop Grill near his Lake Travis compound or popping in at Momo’s on Sixth Street to see his favorite local band, Los Lonely Boys. “The town’s grown so much,” Nelson says, “but I still like the vibe there. It’s still a music town.” Watch the movies he made here in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and you’ll see that so many old landmarks are gone, including the Armadillo World Headquarters, where Willie mapped out the common ground between hippies and the rednecks. Also torn down was the Villa Capri motel, the scene for so many guitar-picking parties hosted by Willie’s buddy Texas Coach Darrell Royal. But Willie’s still Willie, and his set starts out the same way it has since 1971.

There’s the four or five guitar strums and Mickey’s snaky harp lines and then the unmistabkable nasal twang: “Whiskey river, take my mind/ Don’t let her memory torture me.” It’s a holistic hoedown as “Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)” follows, and then come patchwork versions of the early ’60s hits “Crazy,” “Hello Walls” and “Night Life.”

Ain’t it funny how much time hasn’t seemed to slip away?

There’s a scene in “Honeysuckle Rose” when Amy Irving asks Willie if he ever gets tired of being everybody’s hero. His silence makes the question rhetorical, but after watching Willie hold court on his bus a few months ago outside Gruene Hall, with person after person telling him how much his music has meant to them and their recently deceased mother, it’s a question worth re-asking. Does Willie ever get tired of being everybody’s hero?

“I think when that line came up in the movie, the reason I didn’t say anything was because I was probably thinking, ‘That’s about the dumbest question I’ve ever been asked,’ ” he says with a huge Willie laugh.

What a stupid question. Who wouldn’t want to be loved by millions simply by being themselves? Who wouldn’t want to be paid handsomely to do the thing they’d do for free? He’s on the road again and again, playing, in the words of Mickey Raphael, “Carnegie Hall one night and some dump in Odessa the next.”

And so when Willie hits the big 7-0, it won’t be a star-studded affair at a huge Texas amphitheater, complete with fireworks. That would make too much sense. Instead, his bus, his home, is rolling towards Wednesday’s gig at the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, La.

That’s so Willie.

On the road, he’s Willie Nelson, an American treasure and hero of the common folk. Now, who wouldn’t want to be that as often as possible?

Willie Nelson wants to make sure fan has good experience

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
by:  Kelda J. L. Pharris

After Brown County commissioners declined to refund Reed Dornbush’s ticket cost, Nelson’s management team reached out to the American News in an attempt to contact the Aberdeen insurance agent. In an e-mail, Nelson’s team said it wanted to make things right with Dornbush.