Willie Nelson, on PBS SoundStage, Chicago

Thanks to Luke of www.ItsGreattobealive.com for sending me a link to this great story posted by M. Stillman at the unofficial martin guitar forum, about being at the taping of Willie Nelson’s performance for the PBS Soundstage show last September.  (The show will air on 2/20 (or 2/25) on PBS — check your local listings for details.)

by M. Stillman

The Soundstage taping was a fine evening of music….  more bluegrass-flavored than strictly bluegrass, with some traditional country and even contemporary country songs.   Willie did only two of his own songs, starting and ending with “Whiskey River” and also “Man With The Blues” which he said he wrote “fifty years ago, and recorded in a friend’s basement.”  

The band was nine pieces, including Willie, who took a jazzy guitar break on almost every song with Trigger, the 1969 Martin N-20 that’s been his hoss for decades now.  Willie introduced each musician during Whiskey River, and let each take a short instrumental break as they were introduced.  Chris and his D-21 sounded great.  Other musicians included the brilliant Riley Baugus on banjo, Jim Lauderdale on backing vocals and acoustic guitar, Russ Paul on pedal steel, Dennis Crouch on bass, and Mickey Raphael on harmonica (the only holdover from Willie’s regular band), as well as a mandolin player and a fiddle player whose names I didn’t catch (sorry).

Willie was very appreciative of the musicians, saying “I’m very proud of these guys,” and he shook each of their hands on stage after the taping was over. For me, some of the highlights included “Satan, Your Kingdom Come Down” a spine-tingling gospel tune in Em, which Willie said that T-Bone Burnett had brought to the session. Another great one was the Hank Locklin tune “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On” which was a fine choice for Willie’s winsome vocals.

It was nice to hear Willie mention the songwriter before almost every song, sometimes making brief remarks about his interactions with the songwriter or when he first heard the song. This Soundstage program will air on various PBS stations beginning in January, so mark your calendars now.

I’ve scanned a copy of the actual setlist and included it below.

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