Willie Nelson’s Music Celebrated – Willie Nelson Covers in Enterprise, Oregon (May 28, 2016)


by:  Steve Tool

While country music legend Willie Nelson wasn’t in Enterprise on Sunday evening, he drew a standing-room-only crowd into the Independent Order of Odd Fellows hall for the Hootenanny/Pie Social celebration of his life and music.

Nelson, 83, is a founder of the “Outlaw Country” movement that focused on the music scene in Austin, Texas, rather than Nashville. He also is the author of such country classics as “Crazy” and “Hello Walls.”

The fourth annual Hootenanny event was a fundraiser for the Wallowa Valley Music Alliance. About 20 musicians performed in various combinations of groups throughout the evening.

Local musician Jimmy Bivens served as emcee for the event, which started with Bivens reading a short biography of Nelson and playing a video of Nelson talking about his career. Opening the show were local music stalwarts The Brann Family, who did a first-rate version of Nelson’s gospel classic “Family Bible.” Meredith Brann later performed a stellar cover of “Crazy.”

Other performances included Bob Webb and Heidi Muller covering “Pretty Paper,” while Homemade Jam performed “Hello Walls.” Mike Midlo and Kristy Athens — armed with their Gretsch Country Gentleman and Danelectro Longhorn bass, respectively — performed a very compelling medley of Nelson’s “Sad Songs and Waltzes” coupled with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” followed by a line from Nelson’s “Crazy.” Parts of the medley were done in reverent country music fashion, while the Prince number pinwheeled into amp feedback and The Who-inspired playing before reverting back into traditional country.

The show closed with all the performers crowded on the stage performing a rousing, sing-along rendition of “On the Road Again” that ended to thunderous applause.

Local musician Laura Skovlin said she played the show because she loves the Hootenanny performances.

“It’s a great event, and it brings together a lot of musicians, and of course, the pie,” she said. Skovlin performed the Nelson song “No Place To Be.”

“Out of all his songs it’s one I relate to because the words strike a chord in me,” she said.

Bivens, no stranger to country music, said he had been asked to perform but filled in at the emcee post due to a death in the family of original emcee, Ted Hays. Bivens performed “Good Hearted Woman,” although it is not his Nelson favorite. That would be “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” (The song was written by Hank Williams Sr. cohort, Fred Rose).

“It’s my favorite because of how melodic it is,” Bivens said. “It’s heartbreaking — you’ve lost somebody … and it’s tough.”

Nelson’s attraction for Bivens lies in the legend’s anti-Nashville stance and his ability to bring both cowboys and bikers together in their mutual appreciation of country music.

“That’s what’s coming back out of Austin now,” Bivens said.

WVMA director Janis Carper said that the evening netted about $2,500 between the $10 ticket fees, the $1-a-slice pie sale and a 50/50 raffle. The evening was so successful that Carper is considering finding another venue for the event next year.

“It’s a great room, but we had an awful lot of people standing,” she said.

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