Paula Nelson & the Guilty Pleasures, Midland, Texas (2/20/2011)

Photo:  Craig Wallace

A different, languid type of heat exudes from Paula Nelson and her band. She has a casually seductive, but undeniably powerful voice that moves easily from ballad to country rock. Nelson was wearing a cap that hid the top third of her face in deep shadow — I was expecting her to take it off about half-way through her set, as her father tends to remove his cowboy hat. But disappointingly, this did not occur. Nelson has such an open and natural demeanor — friendly with the audience without being cloying — that she should show her face openly. Perhaps it is something about being one of Willie Nelson’s children — her brother hides under a large hat when playing his blues guitar. Nelson’s songs included a beautiful version of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” and a spirited “Riddles and Rhymes.” Her anthem to past boyfriends managed to be both funny and melancholy. She is backed by a solid band, including consummate lead guitarist Landis Armstrong, and a deceptively reticent bassist, Chris Johnson. Obviously being the offspring of a music legend does not hinder a musical career, but Paula Nelson neither relies upon this foundation nor milks it. She has a silky voice and songwriting ability that would have assured her success without that last name.

—  By Graham Dixon

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