Archive for Willie Nelson

Happy Birthday, Willie!

Posted in News with tags on April 30, 2013 by 30daysout

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Willie Nelson, one of the great treasures of American music, is 80 years old today. When I was in college we listened to Willie all the time – his classic Red Headed Stranger came out when I was a junior, and we spun that one till the record was virtually unplayable.

At the time I had the impression that Willie Nelson was a favorite only in Texas or the south. It may have been mainly true about that time, but when he put out the standards collection Stardust in 1978 it was quite obvious the man was a superstar.

I once thought I had more CDs of acts like The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Van Morrison than any other artist, but no. Willie’s CDs take up nearly an entire shelf of my cabinet, and that’s not counting the compilations he appears on, the special things like Live in Austin TX and of course LPs, cassettes, 8-tracks (!) and downloaded digital files.

Willie Nelson 2

Willie performing at the 2012 Free Press Summer Fest in Houston.

Every year they have this big extravaganza in Houston, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and zillions of people go out to see rodeo events but mainly to see top-name music acts perform. It’s always cool to see the way artists are brought to and taken from the stage, which sits out in the middle of the rodeo dirt. Elvis had his own special pickup truck, Kool and the Gang once rode low riders, George Strait gallops off on a horse.

Willie played the Rodeo a handful of times, back when it was in the Astrodome, and he had the greatest stage exit ever. He pointed down to his cowboy boots – somebody had given him a wildly ornate set of manly footwear – and said, “How do you like my boots?” As the spotlight hit his boots and the video closeups showed up on the big screens, the crowd roared in approval at the sight of Willie’s pristine, sparkling clean cowboy boots.

Then he jumped off the stage into the dirt and just started walking toward the exit, waving at the crowd. It was a pretty long walk until he was out of sight, and I’m sure he broke in his new boots by stepping in cow pies along the way. On purpose.  The crowd kept roaring and suddenly, before anyone knew it, he was gone.

The sad news about George Jones this weekend made me think of that night at the Rodeo. One day, Willie will be gone too. And the world will be a much sadder, much less fun place. Here’s hoping that day is a long way away.

YouTube: “Funny How Time Slips Away”

YouTube: “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me”

Video Du Jour: Bob Dylan/Farm Aid

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , on September 18, 2012 by 30daysout

This weekend’s Farm Aid 2012 in Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark Stadium will be the 25th event staged to help America’s farmers (actually in 1989 they took Farm Aid on the road).

Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Dave Matthews and many more will play on Saturday, Sept. 22, 27 years to the day of the very first Farm Aid concert.

Farm Aid was inspired, of course, by Bob Dylan’s offhand comment at Live Aid in 1985 that he hoped some of the money would help American farmers in danger of losing their farms through mortgage debt. Nelson and Mellencamp took up the mantle and went to bat for U.S. farmers.

So, to celebrate Farm Aid, here’s Bob Dylan along with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Willie Nelson, doing “Maggie’s Farm” at the 1985 event in Champaign, Illinois.

Farm Aid official web site

Old Guys and Rock & Roll

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2012 by 30daysout

Paul McCartney, at age 70, is a textbook example of how old guys can still rock.

It used to be very true that rock and roll was not made by old people. “Old” used to mean people over age 30. So what happened?

Bob Dylan (age 71) just released Tempest to glowing reviews – it should appear on the upper reaches of the Billboard album charts in a few days, but probably not at No. 1. Paul McCartney (age 70) is currently performing close to three-hour sets on his “On The Run” tour, which began last summer in New York City. Roger Waters (age 69) and Rod Stewart (age 67) are also touring, while relative youngster Bruce Springsteen (age 62) can’t be dragged off a stage for anything.

Paul Simon (age 70), Crosby, Stills & Nash (average age 69) and the Beach Boys (average age 70) have live DVDs and/or CDs from recent tours. Van Morrison (age 67) is about to release his 34th studio album, Born To Sing: No Plan B, in early October. Mark Knopfler (age 63) and ZZ Top (average age 60) have strong new albums out, Neil Young (age 66) is readying a new album and tour, and the Rolling Stones (average age 68) keep threatening to do something to celebrate their 50th anniversary. And you can’t stop Willie Nelson (age 79)!

So what gives? Is there something in the water?

Well, pretty much all of these guys mentioned above are big draws on the concert circuit so one can cynically say that the lure of the big bucks is enough to get these codgers out of their rockers. Nobody makes money off albums any more, so each of these acts will go on the road to support an album if they haven’t already. Hell, Dylan’s been touring constantly since the early 1980s.

You think maybe it’s an indication that music being produced today somehow doesn’t measure up to those classics of the past? Perhaps – nothing sends concertgoers to the restrooms/beer vendors faster than “a new song off our latest album.” Even superstars like McCartney and Dylan know better than to populate their concerts with new material.

And it’s tempting to say worthless stuff like “do you think we’ll be paying to see Bon Iver or Green Day live in 15 years?” Because unless you are a total idiot, you know the answer is yes. It may not be Bon Iver or Green Day specifically, but it could be that Weezer reunion or the surviving members of Mumford and Sons or the remnants of Radiohead.

Because it’s not necessarily about who is playing, but what they’re playing. It’s rock and roll, and despite what smartasses over the years keep saying, it’s not dead.

It’s pretty damn old, and it’s not pretty (take a close look at the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone). But rock and roll is still alive because we want it to be. The footsoldiers of rock and roll are sticking around because we want them to – the audience changes more than the artists, and as we discover new acts we like, we also go back and appreciate the past. My kids know more about the Beatles and the Stones and the Who than I ever did, when I was a teenager and those boys had brand-new songs on the radio every day.

Women seem to know better, they know when it’s time to fade away – although you can make a pretty good case for rockers like Joan Jett and Bonnie Raitt being here for quite a while. Pop artists are another thing entirely: Madonna has well overstayed her welcome and the decline of Katy Perry, Britney Spears, et. al. won’t be pretty.

Perhaps it’s best just not to think about these things. We’re all going to get to the end of the trail – literally and figuratively – one day. Rock and roll is here to distract us from that brutal truth, to keep us dancing until we can’t any more.

So. The Rolling Stones may tour next year? Don’t know about you, but I’m gonna buy a ticket. For a few hours, I’m gonna be young again.

Video Du Jour: Willie Nelson

Posted in Rock Moment with tags on July 17, 2012 by 30daysout

Last month we got to see the great Willie Nelson play live at the Free Press Summer Fest in Houston. Lo and behold, his new video for the song “Roll Me Up (And Smoke Me)” was filmed at that very same fest.

Willie Nelson official website

WTF: Crazy Cover Versions

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , on July 7, 2012 by 30daysout

We all love cover versions of our favorite rock songs, if only for the fresh perspective the covering artist brings to familiar material. Cover versions are particularly entertaining when they come out of left field – like when an artist jumps genres for material. Remember when Pat Boone covered metal songs? Yeah.

One of our favorites is of course the AOR darlings the Carpenters, covering Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.” Klaatu was a Canadian prog-rock outfit, and they are perhaps best remembered for a rumor that went out in the 1970s that Klaatu were actually the Beatles recording under a pseudonym. Take one listen to any Klaatu record and you know that’s not true. Nevertheless, they put out “Calling Occupants” in 1976 and the next year popsters Karen and Richard Carpenter covered the song. They had a modest hit out of it, too.

Sebastian Cabot, thinking about Bob Dylan.

There was a time when TV actors made a few bucks by releasing albums with their cracked covers of Dylan, the Beatles, et. al. William Shatner is perhaps best known for doing that, but we’ve included a lesser known actor today – Sebastian Cabot (a British gent who played butlers and such) – doing a Dylan tune.

Country artists taking rock songs to the barnyard is also a disturbing recurring phenomenon. Here we have the great Willie Nelson doing the Beatles from a 2003 comp. Finnish black metal rockers Children of Bodom have a sense of humor; they do covers all the time, including this one of an Eddie Murphy groaner.

Legitimate rockers like those cover versions too, especially when they can totally make ‘em over – hence, Pearl Jam doing the death-rock classic “Last Kiss,” John Cale deconstructing Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” and Eric Burdon going totally over the top on a Stones cover.

Don’t have much else to say here, it’s just an excuse to share some of these out-of-the-blue covers. Hope you like ‘em – if you don’t, you always have the originals!

MP3: “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft” by the Carpenters

MP3: “Like A Rolling Stone” by Sebastian Cabot

MP3: “One After 909″ by Willie Nelson

MP3: “Lola” by the Raincoats

MP3: “Sympathy For The Devil” by Louis Prima

MP3: “Good Vibrations” by Floyd Cramer

MP3: “Party All The Time” by Children of Bodom

MP3: “Last Kiss” by Pearl Jam

MP3: “Heartbreak Hotel” by John Cale

MP3: “Creep” by Scala Choir & Kolacny Brothers

MP3: “Paint It Black” by Eric Burdon & the Animals

On The Road Again

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2012 by 30daysout

It may not look like much in the photo, but this is the largest convenience store in the world.

In most places around the country, gasoline prices are dipping. You know what that means – summer’s here and the time is right for piling the kids and/or the dog into the car for a road trip.

We were on the road this past week, and deep in the heart of the Lone Star state we wheeled in to a truly awe-inspiring site: the Buc-ee’s truck stop/convenience store just north of New Braunfels, Texas, between San Antonio and Austin.

Buc-ee’s is a chain of stores found along the highways of Texas. They sell typical convenience store junk food, some hot kolaches and fudge and their own brand of beef jerky, hot peanuts, etc. They also sell a wide variety of knick-knacks, cheap Texas souvenirs and similar crap. We’ll get back to that in a moment.

But this Buc-ee’s we visited, it was friggin’ massive! It was at least the size of a Walmart and sure enough, my research tells me at 68,000 square feet it is truly the largest convenience store in the world (Wikipedia is your friend). It also has 60 gas pumps, about 78 toilets and 250 employees.

The Buc-ee’s beaver mascot.

This is the largest store in the Buc-ee’s chain and I’m told when it opened in May there were cars stretched up and down the frontage road just waiting to get in there. People in Texas love Buc-ee’s for some reason; everywhere, I see people wearing t-shirts with the logo featuring a goofy cartoon beaver. Instead of a Disneyland or Six Flags shirt; like Buc-ee’s is the destination tourists really want to make pilgrimage to.

Anyway, back to the crap they sell in the store. There’s a huge rack of CDs, mostly country music, but because it’s Texas the selection is considerably more choice than your typical roadside truck stop. You got yer George Jones, yer Willie Nelson, some Ray Price and even a disc of Johnny Bush. A Dolly Parton disc and wow, even Robert Earl Keen! Unfortunately, there’s Pat Green too.

There were some copies of the great series from New West Records, Live From Austin TX - glorious audio tracks of performances from the great “Austin City Limits” TV show. Here’s Willie Nelson on the show, Robert Earl Keen, Billy Joe Shaver, Kris Kristofferson, even the Texas Tornados (which IMO is the best of the series). You don’t have to go to Buc-ee’s to find these; your friendly neighborhood record store ought to have a good selection, or you can shop online.

There are also discs from Icehouse Music, a company that rack-jobs music from Texas, Americana and roots artists. That’s the label where you can find the great Johnny Bush (he wrote “Whiskey River” for Willie) and his autobiographical Kashmere Gardens Mud, as well as the incredible two-disc tribute to Guy Clark This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark, which features Robert Earl, Willie, Joe Ely, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris and many more.

Some years ago I picked up a CD at a truck stop, California Jukebox by the Flying Burrito Brothers. Now this isn’t the Gram Parsons-Chris Hillman Burritos, it’s the 21st century version, with John Beland and Gib Guilbeau and featuring guest shots from David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings, Sonny Landreth and even original Flying Burrito steel guitarist “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow. It came out in 2001 from the last incarnation in a long line of imitation Flying Burrito Brothers. It overcomes low expectations and it was a pleasant surprise for me – dig one up if you can. It’s on Icehouse Records, apparently no relation to Icehouse Music above.

Well, this tirade has arrived at a place far from where we started – that’s a nice summer road trip. So, for your summer road trip, here’s a soundtrack for ya.

MP3: “On The Road Again” (live at Austin City Limits) by Willie Nelson

MP3: “White Line Fever” by Joe Ely

MP3: “Truckstop in La Grange” by the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

MP3: “Bloody Mary Morning” by Johnny Bush

MP3 ” (Is Anybody Goin’ To) San Antone/Texas Tornado” (live at Austin City Limits) by the Sir Douglas Quintet

MP3: “Endless Highway” by The Band

MP3: “Automobile” by John Prine

MP3: “Truck Stop Girl” by Little Feat

MP3: “Highway Cafe” by Kinky Friedman

MP3: “California Jukebox” by the Flying Burrito Brothers

MP3: “Honkin’ Down The Highway” by the Beach Boys

MP3: “Goin’ Down To Mexico” by ZZ Top

MP3: “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors w/John Lee Hooker

MP3: “Sweet Hitch-Hiker (live) by John Fogerty

MP3: “Life Is A Highway” by the Tom Cochrane Band

MP3: “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash

MP3: “Highway Star” by Deep Purple

MP3: “Let Me Drive Your Automobile” (live at Woodstock 40th anniversary) by Canned Heat

MP3: “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf

MP3: “Call Me The Breeze” (live) by Lynyrd Skynyrd

MP3: “The Road Goes On Forever” (live at Austin City Limits) by Robert Earl Keen

Live: Free Press Summer Fest, Houston (Day Two)

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , on June 3, 2012 by 30daysout

Hey, are you the guy who came out here to see only one act today?

I have a confession to make: on the second and final day of Houston’s big Free Press Summer Fest, probably the best they’ve had in its four-year history, I pulled up lame. Surveying the schedule of acts playing on eight stages throughout the day, I decided I would see only one act.

As you may have surmised from the photo above, I decided to see only Willie Nelson today. The great Texas singer/songwriter, who is 79 years old, is simply a god. You can’t call yourself a Texan, or a music fan in Texas, if you haven’t seen Willie at least once.

He did his usual set: beginning with “Whiskey River,” touching on “Good Hearted Woman,” the medley of “Funny How Time Slips Away/Crazy/Night Life,” his funny “Me And Paul,” the great “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain,” the bluesy “Shoeshine Man” and the cheesy “All The Girls I’ve Loved Before.”

Lauren Larson of Ume.

Willie paid tribute to Billy Joe Shaver with “Georgia On A Fast Train,” Steve Goodman with “City of New Orleans,” Hank Williams with “Jambalaya” and “Hey Good Lookin’ ” and Hoagy Carmichael with “Georgia On My Mind.” Right at the end, in between the gospel stompers like “I’ll Fly Away” and “I Saw The Light,” Willie announced “we’re doing a new gospel song” then kicked in to “Roll Me Up (And Smoke Me When I Die).” I was kinda hoping Snoop Dogg would materialize out of the smoke to sing his part from the record (it’s on Willie Nelson’s latest album Heroes), but sadly that didn’t happen.

And as Willie faded into the sunset, I did too. I caught a little bit of Austin’s Ume, led by fiery guitarist/singer Lauren Larson, on the way out and they were great. On Sunday I missed Girl In A Coma, Primus, the Avett Brothers, the Watermarks, What Made Milwaukee Famous and a few others I kinda wanted to see.

But my experience on Sunday was pure and unsurpassed. Willie Nelson’s a legend, and amazingly, he’s still going strong.

Willie Nelson’s a legend.

No place but Texas. Isn’t that a Willie Nelson song?

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