Willie Nelson covers the Dead, “Stella Blue”

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Easily one of the most emotional songs in the Grateful Dead catalog, “Stella Blue” still remains a fan-favorite out of the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter songbook ever since it appeared on the Dead’s 1973 studio album, Wake of the Flood. The song was a setlist staple over the years as one of the ballads which Garcia would sing to bring audiences back down to Earth with its beautiful, haunting melodies, often surrounded by the Grateful Dead’s usual storm of psychedelia and experimental jams.

Perhaps its subtle beauty contrasting the rest of the Dead catalog is what drew Texas country veteran Willie Nelson to cover the song on his 2006 album, Songbird. The Ryan Adams-produced recording of Nelson covering “Stella Blue” certainly sticks out in the country artist’s own extensive catalog of recordings.

The recording does have its fair share of guitar power, but in this case, the song is really driven by haunting piano playing and Nelson’s gritty but soothing vocals. Perhaps someone like Nelson, with all of his years of touring and as many miles on his resume as Garcia once had, helps drive home the lyrics, “All the years combine/They melt into a dream.”

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