Tag Archives: Willie Nelson

New Billy Strings: California Sober (ft. Willie Nelson)

Video: Billy Strings – “California Sober” (ft. Willie Nelson)

Directed by Ryen McPhersen. Single out now on Reprise/WMG.

I had never heard of Billy Strings before I saw the video of him playing “Dust in a Baggie” in somebody’s shitty basement apartment. It was January 2020 and Joe Pernice tweeted: “This @bstrings1 recording is nuts. Do yourself a favor and check him out.” I did myself that favor and I’m glad I did.

My pals and I joked about the dancing dude in the video. DP said, “Green Shirt is at every party I have ever been to since 1991. He’s been alive forever.” I replied, “Dude has sold all the weed in America since 1972. He really adds to the timelessness of this recording!” Our homie Tom disagreed: “Shocking you guys still can’t spot a narc. Too earnest, too clean, too muscular.”

Eventually we found out that Strings grew up one county east of us in Ionia, Michigan, which meant the time-travelling Green Guy really might have been at every party we’d ever been to…as long as he wasn’t bound by the space-time continuum.

It was a quite a shock to discover that in the years since that basement video was shot, the traditional looking bluegrass picker in the checkered shirt and leather vest had become a longhaired, tatted-up, tie-dye-wearing hippie! But he could still play, that’s for sure. It’s been wild to follow his meteoric rise from playing afternoon stages at jam band fests just a few years ago to headlining arenas and winning a Grammy. All without radio exposure or a major label deal.

So what’s going to happen now that he’s turned 30 and signed with Reprise Records? Well for starters it looks like he’s going to release a single with Willie Nelson. So that’s pretty cool. Where he goes from here is anybody’s guess.

And yes, you’re hearing Willie’s longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael on there, too, as well as legendary Doug Jernigan on pedal steel. So good.

Billy Strings: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Billy Strings: California Sober (ft. Willie Nelson)

New Willie Nelson video: Vote ‘Em Out

Video: Willie Nelson – “Vote ‘Em Out”

Single out now on Legacy.

Originally written during the 2018 midterms in support of Beto O’Rourke’s senate run against incumbent zodiac killer Ted Cruz, “Vote ‘Em Out” just got a brand new animated video for 2020.

So please, for the love of all that is holy, listen to Willie.

Willie Nelson: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Willie Nelson video: Come On Time

Video: Willie Nelson – “Come On Time”

From Ride Me Back Home, due June 21 on on Sony.

Ok, it’s been a little negative around here lately. Weird times create good art, but it can take a psychic toll on us all. But there are lots of things out there we can be thankful for. That Willie Nelson is alive, well and still cranking out good jams is about as much as we can ask for these days, so let’s take a moment to recognize an actual living American Treasure.

“Come On Time” is a simple country-blues shuffle with standard structure and metre. In lesser hands, that might be the end of my comments on this song, but when you put an American Master on the job, you get something more. You get something much more than the sum of its parts.

That said, I am not at all comfortable with Willie Nelson smack-talking death. Do not tempt the darkness, Willie! At 86 years old, things are getting dicey and the last thing we need right now is another void in what actually makes American great. Stay safe, Willie.

Willie Nelson: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Willie Nelson video: One for My Baby

Video: Willie Nelson – “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)”

From My Way, out September 14 on Sony Legacy.

Another one from Willie’s tribute to Frank Sinatra. “One for My Baby” is a classic Johnny Mercer lyric set to a complex Harold tune, originally written for the 1943 Fred Astaire film, The Sky’s the Limit. The scene in which it appears features my all-time favorite dance routine as Astaire drunkenly trashes the hotel bar.

Frank owns it though. Of course he does. It’s the perfect sad sack, drunken, breakup song, which all real Sinatra fans prefer to his ring-a-ding-ding happy songs.

Willie’s version is fine. Mickey Raphael’s distinctive harmonica makes it sound like Willie but the orchestration is a little too generic and snoozeworthy. The strings obscure what otherwise distinguishes this arrangement: Willie’s guitar flourishes and some tasteful pedal steel. It would be much better without the lush stuff.

But hey, Willie’s a legend and can do whatever he wants.

Willie Nelson: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Willie Nelson video: One for My Baby

New Willie Nelson video: Summer Wind

Video: Willie Nelson – “Summer Wind”

From My Way, due September 14 on Sony Legacy.

I love Frank Sinatra. When I was in college I visited a friend in Ann Arbor and we went record shopping and I ended up finding a mint used copy of the 4-CD Reprise Collection. We found somebody to buy us forties and we went back to his apartment and drank and listened to Frank while we thumbed through his roommate’s collection of Penthouse and Hustler magazines.

In a moment permanently etched into my memory, we were in the middle of Disc 2 when we both realized Frank was singing directly to the two of us:

To the guy who’d throw a party if he knew someone to call
Here’s to the losers, bless them all

From then on I’ve always associated “Here’s to the Losers” — and Frank’s Reprise years in general — with being a dopey college kid who dreamed of being all ring-a-ding-ding but in reality was way more dum-dee-dum-dum-dum. Still, good times.

Willie Nelson loves Frank Sinatra too.

“I learned a lot about phrasing listening to Frank,” he recently told AARP. “He didn’t worry about behind the beat or in front of the beat, or whatever — he could sing it either way, and that’s the feel you have to have.”

And now Willie’s releasing a new album, My Way, that pays tribute to Frank with 11 songs he made famous. “Summer Wind” is a breezy tune that originally appeared on Strangers in the Night in 1966. This is the era when 50-year-old Frank was sporting a new Caesar haircut and a new 20-year-old wife named Mia Farrow. Peak Sinatra bravado.

Willie is 85 now and doesn’t need a new haircut or a young wife to proves he’s not slowing down. This will be his second album of 2018, following April’s Last Man Standing. Willie’s cool is effortless.

Willie Nelson: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Willie Nelson video: Summer Wind

New Willie Nelson video: Me and You

Video: Willie Nelson – “Me and You”

From Last Man Standing, out April 27 on Sony Legacy.

Willie Nelson is such a national treasure that he can release two videos that are exactly the same for two different songs and that’s fine. The director wasn’t even like, “Hey Willie, let’s try a different flannel for this one.” Who cares?

Turn the sound down on my TV
I just can’t listen any more
It’s like I’m in some foreign country
That I’ve never seen before

Even more than the previous single, this one sounds like classic Willie. You put Mickey Raphael’s harmonica together in a studio with Willie and Trigger, and it’s going to have a distinct sound. And it’s a sound that has soothed me all my life. My dad loved Willie and Waylon and the boys and this music will always conjure up the seventies to me. Hazy sunlight shining through velvet curtains, cigarette smoke hanging in the air of my living room. Me, playing with Hot Wheels and Legos on the green shag carpet. Records stacked on the turntable. Forty years later and I can still smell and feel everything about it.

Willie Nelson has seen a lot over the years. I love the fact that he’s holding an iPhone at the start of this video. “The world has gone out of its mind except for me and you.” His mind is clearly still as sharp as his voice and his guitar picking.

Willie Nelson: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Willie Nelson video: Last Man Standing

Video: Willie Nelson – “Last Man Standing”

From Last Man Standing, out April 27 on Sony Legacy.

Willie’s getting old, man! He somehow seemed to stay looking about 40 years old from 1979 to some time in the early 2000s, but dang. Those years have caught up to him. For the record he’s almost 85 and he’s doing a whole lot better than Kirk Douglas. But the grim reaper is knocking on Willie’s door and he knows it.

It’s gettin’ hard to watch my pals check out
Cuts like a wore out knife
One thing I learned about runnin’ the road
Is “forever” don’t apply to life
Waylon and Ray and Merle and old Norro
Lived just as fast as me
I still got a lotta good friends left
And I wonder who the next will be

Let him know you appreciate him while you’ve still got time. As I said after I read his biography by Joe Nick Patoski, Willie is as close to the Buddha as this country is every going to produce.

Willie Nelson: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

My rock and roll library update

The Zapple Diaries: The Rise and Fall of the Last Beatles Label by Barry Miles (Harry N. Abrams, 2016)

Do we need another Beatles book? Is there any facet of the Beatles’ 12-year existence as a group that hasn’t been written into the ground? Well, at least until Mark Lewisohn completes his definitive multi-volume history, it looks like we’re going to continue to get more. This one is a specific first-person look at the big-idea, short-lived subsidiary label that the naive idealists formed to release experimental recordings. Miles was hired to record poets such as Charles Bukowski, Laurence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg. Spoiler alert: Zapple ended up only releasing two records (vanity projects by George Harrison and John Lennon) before new manager Allen Klein fired everybody and closed shop.

The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America by Michaelangelo Matos (Dey Street, 2015)

I’m probably not the intended audience for this book since I don’t really know the difference between house and techno and jungle and dubstep, and I don’t particularly care. Dance music people are very into genre differentiation, but it’s still rock and roll to me. I do, however, enjoy reading well researched and engaging history, and this book is full of that. Lots of young people doing their own thing, making their own scenes, getting loaded, and digging music. Despite the fact that Matos has claimed “The book is not about recordings,” I could have really used a soundtrack when reading it since virtually all of the music was unfamiliar to me.

Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Eric Clapton, the Faces… by Glyn Johns (Plume, 2014)

It’s rare that I start but don’t finish a book. This is one of those rarities. For all the characters and events this guy witnessed, you’d think he’d be able to come up with some interesting insights or at least a few good stories. Nope. It’s just tame and boring. Which is a shame because I’ve read interviews with Johns where he’s been hilarious and opinionated. Unfortunately, this book — at least the first half — doesn’t reveal any of that.

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life by Joe Nick Patoski (Back Bay, 2008)

I picked up this book after reading Patoski’s Oxford American article about drummer/character Paul English, “Watching Willie’s Back.” Willie Nelson is an American hero whose greatness has only occasionally been captured on tape despite the fact that he’s got 50+ years of recording under his belt. This book goes a long way in explaining what it is about Willie that makes him such a compelling and unique figure. He’s as close to the Buddha as this country is every going to produce.

Continue reading My rock and roll library update

New Willie Nelson and Kacey Musgraves video: Are You Sure?

Video: Kacey Musgraves – “Are You Sure?” (ft. Willie Nelson)

Is there anything prettier in the whole wide world than Willie Nelson’s guitar tone? No, I don’t think there is.

“Are You Sure?” is a “hidden track” on Musgraves’ latest album, Pageant Material. I suppose the uncommerciality of making a video for a hidden track is pretty much “on-brand” for this outsider country singer, but she’s gotta follow her arrow wherever it goes, right? No matter what, she’s got a great voice and the song is awesome and ragged old Willie is just a bonus.

Here’s Willie’s original from his 1965 album, Country Willie: His Own Songs.

Country Willie - His Own Songs

Rothbury 2009

Rothbury 2009Writing a summary of Rothbury is kind of like explaining the Lord of the Rings trilogy to my 4-year-old daughter. I can give her a broad overview of some of the plot points and make some specific comments about some of the characters, but there’s just no way she’s going to understand without so much extra exposition that it’s pointless to even make the attempt. Not to mention that there’s just some stuff you’re not going to go into regardless.

That said, let’s delve into just a few details that should help set the Rothbury scene:

1. Rothbury is dirty in every way imaginable. (Not to mention literally; showers cost $10.)

2. Everyone is getting fucked up pretty much all the time.

3. I don’t know how you could have more fun at a concert — I never have.

To put that last point in perspective, consider that I am 36 years old and have been to well over 100 big-name touring act shows in the past 23 years since my first (Springsteen). I can’t even begin to estimate how many bar shows I’ve attended in that time. I have seen damn near every classic rock icon, plenty of indie rock, lots of metal shows, and even a handful of legendary jazz artists. So for Rothbury to compare this well to my better-with-age memories of Lollapalooza 2, Clash of the Titans, or some of the old-school Pine Knob shows when nobody cared what you brought in to the show, well, that’s saying something.

Continue reading Rothbury 2009