Willie Nelson’s Country Music Album (out Tuesday 4/20/2010)

 “There is a great feeling of freedom when you sit in a studio surrounded by seven, eight, ten musicians and producers and engineers who are the best there are and you’re playing good songs,” says Willie Nelson.   “Naturally, I feel fairly confident in that situation.  It doesn’t matter where I look and point, I know whether it’s the steel or the fiddle or the mandolin, I’m going to get a great solo from those guys because they play great all the time.  It was a huge experience for me.”

— Willie Nelson

track list:

1. Man With The Blues
2. Seaman’s Blues
3. Dark As A Dungeon
4. Gotta Walk Alone
5. Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
6. My Baby’s Gone
7. Freight Train Boogie
8. Satisfied Mind
9. You Done Me Wrong
10. Pistol Packin’ Mama
11. Ocean Of Diamonds
12. Drinking Champagne
13. I Am A Pilgrim
14. House of Gold
15. Nobody’s Fault But Mine 

Willie Nelson’a new album, ‘Country Music,’ comes out on Tuesday, 4/20/2010, on the Rounder Records label.   The title doesn’t tell you much, but after hearing the album, this simple title is perfect for this collection of songs.  


Willie Nelson:  vocals, gut string acoustic guitar
Buddy Miller:  electric guitar, vocal harmonies
Chris Sharp:  acoustic guitar
Dennis Crouch:  acoustic bass
Riley Baugus:  banjo
Ronnie McCoury:  mandolin
Russell Pahl:  pedal steel
Stuart Duncan:  fiddle
Mickey Raphael:  harmonica

I think the album could have been called, ‘Genius Loves Company,’ but I know that title’s been used.    But there is just so much musical genius packed into this album, and it oozes with it.   The album was produced by T Bone Burnett, and was recorded in Nashville.  Burnett brought in some of Nashville’s finest, musicians who he works with on projects and creates award winning works of art.   Also, Mickey Raphael plays harmonica on the album.   

Willie’s voice is perfect on these songs, for singing the stories these songs tell.   His own guitar playing, along with the other instruments –electric guitar, acoustic bass;  banjo;  mandolin; pedal steel; fiddle and harmonica, frames his unique voice perfectly.   Really, close your eyes when you listen, and you can imagine him sitting on a porch a hundred years ago, singing and sharing stories with his guitar. 

Willie starts off the album with one of his own songs, “Man With the Blues.”    It’s a sad song, but somehow Willie  makes you feel good when he sings it.  (Maybe it’s the banjo, and it’s true that you just can’t play a sad song with a banjo). This is the only song written by Willie Nelson on the album, but he and Burnett co-arranged three traditional songs, “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” “I Am A Pilgrim,” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” The album also features many popular old-time/bluegrass/folk songs including Ernest Tubb’s “Seaman’s Blues and Merle Travis’ “Dark As A Dungeon.”   Doc Watson’s “Freight Train Boogie” is included on the album, and Mickey Raphael has a strong presence on that song.  Mickey seems to get invited to so many of Willie’s projects.  He is so versatile;  he’s all that jazz with Wynton Marsalis and his quintet, Mr. Texas Swing with Asleep at the wheel, and here he’s  all about the trains on Freight Train Boogie.  

 Willie sings, ‘Drinking Champagne’ on the album, the song written by his friend Bill Mack, and will all due respect to George Strait, and all the other artists who have recorded this song, including Bill — this is the best version ever.  His guitar playing is so sad and sweet on this song, with the fiddle.   Jim Lauderdale sings with him on this song, and it’s beautiful.   He ends the album with the song, “Nobody’s Fault by Mine.”  Willie’s been singing this song in concert, and it gets so quite when he sings it, it’s so moving, really.

I love this album.  It’s just what the world needs right now, music from a simpler time.  Not an easier time, but maybe slower.  This music is from a time when music was part of our oral history telling, how life stories were passed down. 

The songs are so suited to Willie Nelson’s voice, his pauses, the way his voice catches on on the “Satan; your kingdom must come down,’ resonates.      The multi-talented Jim Lauderdale sings with Willie, and their voices are very pleasing together.

Willie’s guitar is featured in this album, and I like hearing him on this music.  Willie changes his tempo, slower, plays waltzes, like he’s still in the polka band he played in as a teen-ager.   


And the album artwork is really beautiful too, using pictures taken at Willie Nelson’s western town of Luck, Texas.   Credits for the design go to Dan Macadam; photography by Rick Oliver; Design by Carla Leighton/Blog Design; and Art direction by Scott Billington. 

The album comes out on Tuesday.   Get it on your way in to work, then you can listen to it all day.  You’ll thank me later.

— Linda

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