Archive for the ‘News and Reviews’ Category

Willie Nelson & Family in Redding (January 11, 2020)

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Willie Nelson & Family at the Fillmore (Jan. 6th, 7th, 8th, 2020)

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020
photo: Nick Buckmaster
by: Alexander Baechle

SAN FRANCISCO — An eclectic audience turned up at the Fillmore Wednesday to witness country superstar Willie Nelson perform the second of three sold-out nights in the City.

Nelson took to the stage with an assured wave to the crowd and launched into a spirited “Whiskey River.” Nelson was fully engaged and his guitar fingers stayed true. The strings did the talking on second song “Still Is Still Moving To Me.” He raked crunchy, bristly post-structural blues out of his old beat-up acoustic guitar, Trigger, as the band charged along behind him. The guitar phrasing was so jarring it seemed almost disjointed; but Nelson led the band with aplomb, teasing chaos in a neat bit of instrumental navigation.

On hits like “Good-Hearted Woman” and “On The Road Again,” Nelson invited audience participation. For key lines of some choruses, he leaned back and put his right hand up to his ear, as if to say “I can’t hear you.” Sometimes the audience rewarded him by finishing the couplet in a shout-along. At other moments fans fumbled and mumbled – caught up, apparently, in the good-time romp of the rhythm section.

Nelson waved away such trifling miscues. His direct lyrics and conversational singing voice underpinned an arresting performance on “Good-Hearted Woman.” The 86-year-old alertly kept his eyes moving about the room, and the crowd was roused to sing along. Though he appeared tired during brief moments away from the mic, Nelson’s subtle, intricate guitar playing and inviting voice never dimmed.

Nelson’s son Lukas Nelson served as first mate at his dad’s right side. With the full focus of the band behind him, the younger Nelson reached deep for a showcase early on, taking lead vocal and guitar duties on a Stevie-Ray-Vaughan-tinged workout. The smoky, soul-scraping venture into lounge blues centered on a throaty vocal and overdriven guitar leads. Meanwhile the elder Nelson hung back in the groove.

Willie Nelson & Family, Amarillo, TX (January 5, 2012)

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

photo:  Michael Norris
by Chip Chandler

In today’s Get Out! column, I bemoan the lack of really big concerts coming to town in the first half of this year.

But if last night’s Willie Nelson concert is the last great one we get all year even, I can’t complain.

Nelson was in fantastic shape last night, flying down the highways and byways of his career, hitting most of the expected highlights and taking a couple of fascinating detours.

He brought with him a tight band — “the whole damn family,” he cracked at one point: Son Lukas on lead guitar, son Micah on snare drum, sister Bobbi on piano, longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael, and a guest appearance by longtime percussionist Paul English (who suffered a stroke a couple of years ago) on a couple of songs. Paul’s son Billy moved over from snare to bass, filling in, for now, for the late Bee Spears. Daughter Amy Lee Nelson even came out at the end of the show to sing harmony.

They all kept up phenomenally with Nelson, whose singing darted and slid and slipped around the words of his songs, stripping everything down to the bare essentials. Nelson’s guitar playing was, if anything, stronger than ever (or maybe I could just hear it better this time).

The highlights: A rolling jazz version of “Me and Bobby McGee,” tender and spare versions of “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and “Always on My Mind” and a couple  crowdpleasing newer tunes, “I Ain’t Superman” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”

Willie Country (December 1986)

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Willie Country
By Don Holland

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

Monday, November 25th, 2019

photo:  Ron McKeown.

November 25, 1986
By Wes Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Willie Nelson: The Pride of Texas

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

photo:  Christ Vest
by: Gladys Fuentes

God bless Willie Nelson. Anyone who can put as much gusto and authenticity as he does into anything deserves nothing but praise. Nelson is the patron saint of quality country music and good times, and has never been known to skimp on either. Monday night at Smart Financial Centre was no exception.

Throughout the evening, Nelson navigated his familiar fretboard on Trigger with an ease that can only come after so many years together. Though he has been come to be known for changing up his traditional solos for more jazzy, Django Reinhart-inspired incarnations, Nelson continues to produce his unmistakable sound, equally made up of the man and his acoustic guitar.

Nelson has no shortage of material either written by him or songs impossible to dissociate from the man himself. He never strays from opening with his old friend Johnny Bush’s. “Whiskey River,” pairing the opening chords with the release of the biggest Texas flag outside of highway adjacent car dealerships.

Throughout Nelson’s show, he managed to pay homage to old friends and fellow music legends, dedicating a portion of his set list to Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Billy Joe Shaver and the heartbroken king of Country himself, Hank Williams.

Nelson and his band seemed to be communicating on a higher plane, through effortless glances and nods.  The band has been with him for an impressive amount of time; with his sister Bobbie Nelson always behind her grand piano and Mickey Raphael’s harmonica serving as the back up singer to Nelson’s vocals.

Nelson spends most of his time on tour and his set lists haven’t varied much in the past, despite releasing new material every year.  He managed to balance out tried and true sing alongs like “Beer For My Horses” with newer, instant classics, like “It’s All Going to Pot”; both songs with lyrics relevant to the times we live in.

He only played one song from this year’s release, Ride Me Back Home, the tongue-in-cheek cover, “Hard to Be Humble.” Nelson winked to the crowd as he sang “Something to do with the way that I fill out my skin tight jeans.”

A man of few words onstage, Nelson went from hit to hit, always encouraging audience participation. Nelson took everyone to church with his closing number, the medley “Circle Be Unbroken/I’ll Fly Away”.

Set List:

Whiskey River
Still Is Still Moving to Me
Beer For My Horses
Good Hearted Woman
Down Yonder (Bobbie Nelson Instrumental)
If You’ve Got the Money
Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
Angels Flying Too Close to the Ground
On the Road Again
Always on My Mind
Jambalaya (On the Bayou)
Hey, Good Lookin’
Guitar instrumental
It’s All Going to Pot
Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
Georgia On a Fast Train
It’s Hard to Be Humble
Circle Be Unbroken/I’ll Fly Away

Willie Nelson & Loretta Lynn hang out at the CMA’s

Saturday, November 16th, 2019
lorettalynnofficial's profile picture
I had the best time at CMA Country Music Association Awards last night. It was so good to see so many of my friends. I loved catching up with my buddy Willie Nelson!”
by: Iesha Mae Thomas

The CMA Awards always brings the country music community together, and after the 2019 awards show on Wednesday Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson took some time to hang out and catch up. On his tour bus. No big deal.

Lynn posted the photo above to her Instagram, saying, “I had the best time at CMA Country Music Association Awards last night. It was so good to see so many of my friends. I loved catching up with my buddy Willie Nelson!”

Nelson, 86, performed “Rainbow Connection” during the 2019 CMA Awards broadcast with Kacey Musgraves, who took home the award for Female Vocalist and Music Video of the Year. It was his first performance on the show since 2012.

Lynn made a surprise appearance at the ceremony, which took place at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The 87-year-old is a rare sighting these days, following a stroke in 2017, and a fall that broke her hip in 2018.

Although Lynn didn’t perform on an evening that highlighted the historical contributions women have made to country music, she was honored by a group of female artists who performed an opening medley that featured her song, “You’re Looking at Country.”

Lynn was the first female artist to win Entertainer of the Year, taking home the CMA’s top honor in 1972. Garth Brooks won Entertainer of the Year for the seventh time in 2019, marking the third time he has held the title in the last four years.

Willie Nelson & Family at Billy Bob’s for the 57th time

Friday, November 15th, 2019
by: Ken Molestina

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s hard to think about country music especially in Texas without thinking about Willie Nelson.

The 86-year-old has created quite the frenzy for fans trying to score the hottest ticket in town to see him play at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth Friday night.

Willie Nelson performs during the Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert to benefit United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on July 6, 2013 in Norman, Oklahoma. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Shock Ink)

Pam Minick, the marketing director at Billy Bob’s said good luck trying to get into the show if you don’t already have a ticket.

“This concert went on sale back in August and reserved seats were gone in 15 minutes,” she said.

Fans are expected to pack the 6,000-person capacity honky tonk to get a glimpse of Willie Nelson and sing along to his songs.

Jessica Mills traveled from Canada to see him.

She said she realizes his career may be coming to an end soon and wanted to see him in person once more.

We wouldn’t want to see Willie Nelson hang up his hat for the last time without having the opportunity to see him,” said Mills.

Friday night’s show will be the country music icon’s 57th time performing at Billy Bob’s.

Willie Nelson and Kacey Musgraves duet at 2019 CMA Awards

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019
by: Jon Freeman

A group of new performers and surprise collaborators spanning genres and generations has been added to the lineup of the 2019 CMA Awards. The annual event takes place Wednesday, November 13th at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.

Kacey Musgraves, who claimed the CMA’s Album of the Year prize for Golden Hour at the 2018 show, will share the stage with Country Music Hall of Fame member Willie Nelson. The two previously collaborated on a cover of Nelson’s “Are You Sure” that was secretly tacked on to the end of Musgraves’ album Pageant Material.

Additional collaborations will include Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton, who appear together on Brooks’ current single “Dive Bar”; Brooks & Dunn and Brothers Osborne, who sang “Hard Workin’ Man” together on this year’s Reboot; and Lady Antebellum with pop star Halsey. Also newly added to the lineup are solo performances from Kelsea Ballerini, Dan + Shay, Old Dominion, and Thomas Rhett.

They join previously announced performers including Eric Church, Luke Combs, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Maren Morris, Keith Urban, and Carrie Underwood. Other collaborations on the show will include Pink and Chris Stapleton, along with Dolly Parton joined by For King & Country and Zach Williams.

The 53rd annual CMA Awards, hosted by Carrie Underwood with Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire, will air live November 13th at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Willie Nelson in Las Vegas

Friday, October 25th, 2019
Story and photo by Terence J. Fitzwater

I went to Las Vegas to be a Parrot Head over the weekend.

Instead, I came home having had an epiphany about Willie Nelson and his legacy in music. Now he is “Always on My Mind.” After what I experienced in Las Vegas on Friday night, it is crystal clear to me that Willie Nelson is the greatest country singer in the history of country western music. The sheer size, scope and depth of the man and his music not only begs for him to be considered the greatest of all time, but the record demands it.

To some of you, that may seem obvious. He started singing and playing music over 60 years ago. In the 1950s he was writing classic country songs like “Crazy” for the legendary Patsy Cline and “Hello Walls” among others. His legendary songs, his leading role in popularizing Outlaw Country and then performing with the seminal Highway Men is known to everyone.

What we have seen and witnessed is an amazing history of growth, production and musical metamorphosis unmatched in the annals of country music. We have witnessed Willie Nelson first-hand for over six decades. We have watched and chronicled the transformation and growth of Willie Nelson from a raw and unproven disc jockey in Pleasanton, Texas to the megastar legend he is today. It is unfathomable to comprehend this robust career with all its twists, turns and layers.

This man has evolved into more than just a country music singer and song writer. He likes jazz, the blues, blue grass and all forms of music. He is a big Frank Sinatra fan. But what I didn’t know is how well he can the sing the blues. I found out he is a master blues singer on Friday night.

What we are witnessing right now is the life and times of a legend. We shall never see the likes of a Willie Nelson again.

Read article here.

Willie Nelson & Family at the Big Fresno Fair (October 14, 2019)

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
Country music legend Willie Nelson, wearing a Fresno State t-shirt, performs to a sell out crowd at the Paul Paul Theater during the last night of the Big Fresno Fair, Monday night, Oct. 14, 2019.
Country music legend Willie Nelson and band perform to a sell out crowd at the Paul Paul Theater during the last night of the Big Fresno Fair, Monday night, Oct. 14, 2019.

1 Country music legend Willie Nelson, wearing a Fresno State t-shirt, performs to a sell out crowd at the Paul Paul Theater during the last night of the Big Fresno Fair, Monday night, Oct. 14, 2019. (John Walker)
by: Joshua Tehee

Willie Nelson offered a history lesson during his concert Monday on the closing night of The Big Fresno Fair.

At 86 years old, the country music icon has been performing since the late 1950s. So, most of his catalog for the night, except 2003’s Toby Keith duet “Beer for My Horses,” was written at least 40 years ago.

Then he dipped into some Hank Williams covers. “Move it On Over” was first recorded in 1947.
Read more here:

The hour-long concert was a reminder of a time before pop stars and arena tours when the power of performance wasn’t set by stage production, light design or backing track, but by how well the players on stage could deliver a song.

Read rest of article here.

Willie Nelson front and center at Nancy Pelsoi speech in Austin

Monday, September 30th, 2019
Image may contain: one or more people and text
by Jordan Bontke

AUSTIN, Texas — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it’s was “clear” to her to launch the impeachment inquiry after knowing the facts from the president’s phone call with a foreign government and reading the whistle blower’s complaint.

As the final speaker of the Texas Tribune Festival, Nancy Pelosi brought in a crowd that filled the Paramount theater, even Willie Nelson sat near the front to hear her speak.

“What happened in that phone conversation, that a president of the United States would withhold military assistance which was paid for by taxpayer money to shake down the leader of another country unless he did him a favor, this is so clear,” said Pelosi.

Pelosi said investigating facts surrounding a possible impeachable offense shouldn’t be something to be proud for those involved or those who are watching it unfold.

“It’s sad, we must be somber, we must be prayerful we must purse the facts further,” she said.

Many democrats and presidential hopefuls have put their support behind the inquiry and Pelosi was asked if any Republicans would publicly support impeachment.

“Let me just say that my fidelity to the oath of office to protect and defend the constitution does not depend where the republicans are in congress,” said Pelosi.

The full weekend brought in multiple democratic presidential candidates like South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and Former U.S. Representative of El Paso, Beto O’Rourke.

“You’re not going to endorse one of those candidates, tonight are you?” asked Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune.

“Oh, I don’t get involved in presidential races, I have enough to deal with in the House of Representatives,” said Pelosi to a laughing crowd.

Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival (Sept. 11, 2019)

Saturday, September 14th, 2019
photo: Steve Bloom
by: Steve Bloom


Willie Nelson rolled into New York on September 11 headlining the Outlaw Music Festival. On the somber day of remembrance, Nelson and the other bands on the bill perked up the crowd with a day full of upbeat country music.

Nelson was just back on the road after canceling six shows in August due to a breathing problem. The Texas-born troubador is 86 years old.

The Outlaw Music Festival usually includes at least three other bands, plus Nelson’s. The tour, which began on June 14, brought Nelson & Family, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Alison Krauss and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (POTR) to Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY. 

read article here

Willie Nelson – the Top Balladeer (New York Times) (September 9, 1981)

Monday, September 9th, 2019

WHY is Willie Nelson, who wears his long, graying hair in braids, dresses like a hippie and was singing honky tonk music in Texas roadhouses as long ago as the l950’s, America’s most admired pop balladeer?

Kenny Rogers sells more records with his saccharine love songs and stagey whisky-rasp, and Frank Sinatra is certainly still a force to be reckoned with, but it is Willie Nelson who has turned chestnuts like ”Georgia on My Mind,” ”Stardust” and ”Mona Lisa” into recent pop hits, and Mr. Nelson draws a more diverse audience than either Mr. Rogers or Mr. Sinatra. The last time he performed in New York, pot-smoking rock fans were sitting next to middle-aged businessmen and their wives and a few grandmothers, and all of them were hanging on to Willie Nelson’s every word.

The release this week of ”Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits” (Columbia records) offers some clues, both in the music it includes and in what it omits. On first hearing, Mr. Nelson’s dry, reedy tenor can sound deceptively thin, but listening to his hits back to back, one soon notices a sinewy strength that’s barely hidden behind his apparently vulnerable sound and casual delivery. One also notices that most of his hit records have used a sound, a kind of musical formula, that refers to several traditions, including country music, rock, folk and middle-of-the-road pop, without really belonging to any of them. Their most characteristic sound is a softly strummed acoustic guitar, a wailing harmonica played by his band’s most prominent soloist, Mickey Raphael, and Mr. Nelson singing, straightforwardly and with just a hint of melancholy, about faded loves, rejection in love, and men who are drawn to the open road and can’t seem to help themselves, men who live like cowboys not because they want to but because that’s what they are. A Land of Cowboys

Cowboys – there’s a clue. America needs its cowboys. There’s a cowboy in the White House, a cowboy who likes living on his ranch and gives press conferences with his boots on. There were latter-day cowboys in ”Urban Cowboy,” one of the most successful films and record-album soundtracks last year. There are more and more countryand-western clubs opening, and more and more city slickers in western shirts and boots to go to them, even in Manhattan. And Willie Nelson is a cowboy.

He’s still a convincing cowboy at the age of 48. He crisscrossed Texas for years, playing in roadside honky tonks. He peddled his songs in Nashville, and some of them, most notably ”Crazy” and ”Funny (How Time Slips Away),” became country standards. But record producers in Nashville didn’t think he could sing, and when he did get a chance to record, he was saddled with string orchestras and inappropriate material. By the time he finally became a full-fledged country star, in the mid-70’s, he had been branded an ”outlaw” by Nashville’s conservative country-music establishment, and although he has long since become a pop star, with a fistful of platinum albums and singles and several film roles to his credit, he still projects that outlaw image.

This is a curious thing. What one sees is an outlaw – a cowboy gone wrong. What one hears, especially on Mr. Nelson’s recordings of ”Stardust” and other standards, is a weathe red but reassuring voicesinging the old songs as if they really matte r to him, against a simple, folksy musical backdrop. Apparently, American pop consumers won’t buy records of songs like ”Stardust” when they are performed by entertainers who project an old-fashioned, sophisticated showbusiness image, but they will buy them wh en the singer is a longhaired, pot-smoking rebel.

The counterculture of the 60’s has become the mainstream culture of the 80’s, an d Mr. Nelson is the one American popular singer who gives the impress ion of being part of both the counterculture and the mainstream at the same time. Back to Honky Tonk

Interestingly, ”Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits,” a double album that includes two previously unreleased performances, has only one of his performances of pop evergreens on it -his hit version of ”Georgia on My Mind.” The rest of the album concentrates on hits that are clos er to country music and to country rock. There are several live performances recorded with his wonderfully idiosyncraticband, which l ayers electric guitars and back-country church-style piano over he avy bass and the two-beat cowboy drumming of Mr. Nelson’s long time sidekick, Paul English. There are tributes to Mr. Nelson’s honk y-tonk roots, including a fine reworking of Lefty Frizzell’s ” If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time” and two numbers, ”Fa ded Love” and ”Stay a Little Longer,” that were associated wi th the late Bob Wills, ”King of Western Swing” and probably the most popular Southwestern entertainer or all time. Mr. Nelson’s most celebrated duet with his fellow country ”Outlaw” Waylon Jennin gs, ”Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” is here, too.

So ”Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits” is really the best of Willie Nelson, country singer, an album for his hard-core fans. Perhaps he feels that with his albums of pre-World War II pop standards and his movie appearances, he has been neglecting the people who made his reputation in the first place. At any rate, he is still a winning country stylist.

And it is somehow reassuring, at a time when most country entertainers can’t wait to get that first pop hit and start wearing tuxedos and playing Las Vegas, to find one who knows who he is and what he comes from. Maybe that’s why his fans accept the long hair and the rumpled clothes; they are outward indications that no matter how successful he becomes, the inner Willie Nelson is not about to change.

Willie Nelson in good health and fine form at Outlaw Fest

Saturday, September 7th, 2019
by: James Sullivan

GILFORD, N.H. — At ease, everyone. Willie just needed a little time to catch his breath.

Willie Nelson, the 86-year-old paragon of American music, resumed his Outlaw Music Festival tour on Friday at the Bank of NH Pavilion near Lake Winnipesaukee, after missing more than a month of shows due to respiratory trouble.

In an one-hour set, he and his longtime Family band played 20 songs that paid tribute to Nelson’s forebears (Hank Williams, Django Reinhardt) and some of his old running partners (Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard). Along the way, they sprinkled in a couple of choice cuts from Nelson’s own long list of signature songs.

The tour, which began in June, has?offered an unusual interpretation?of the definition of “outlaw” country music, with a rotating pool of?guests including Phil Lesh, Dawes, and the Avett Brothers. For the New Hampshire date, Nelson’s supporting acts included Bonnie Raitt and the flawless bluegrass singer and fiddler Alison Krauss.

With little comment beyond a hello, Nelson and his band took the stage just before 10 p.m., more than five hours after the night’s performances began. Huddled close in front of an enormous red, white, and blue Texas flag, the musicians — including Willie’s older sister Bobbie on piano, harmonica master Mickey Raphael, and drummer Paul English brushing a single snare — built a spare, cozy bed for Nelson’s voice and guitar.ADVERTISING

Mid-set he sang two of his biggest crossover hits, “On the Road Again” and his cover of “You Were Always on My Mind.” Maybe now more than ever, though, Nelson seems perfectly content to act as a human jukebox of country music history. On this night his selections ranged from Lefty Frizzell’s “If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time” (1950) to an amusing version of Mac Davis’s “It’s Hard to Be Humble” (1980), which Nelson recorded for his latest album.

His wry sense of humor certainly hasn’t taken a rest. He got a rise out of his rapt audience on “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” and he savored one line in particular while singing Billy Joe Shaver’s “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train”: “I wasn’t born no yesterday.”

Nope, he was not. He alluded to that fact with a little more introspection on a brief encore medley of the backwoods hymns “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and “I’ll Fly Away,” with Raitt joining onstage. It was enough to take your breath away.

There were other highlights throughout the day, from Krauss’s version of “Gentle on My Mind” to Raitt’s perfect pairing with the INXS hit “Need You Tonight.” But the show’s finest moment may have come when Krauss joined Raitt onstage to sing a crystalline version of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery,” which Raitt, who got her start on the Cambridge club scene, first recorded in 1974.

“Come here so I can look over at those beautiful eyes,” Raitt said as she welcomed her duet partner onstage.

Read entire interview here.