Willie Nelson

Texas RePlatters

Phases and Stages

Willie Nelson

To Lefty From Willie (Columbia/Legacy)

Willie Nelson

Willie & Family Live (Columbia/Legacy)

Willie Nelson

Honeysuckle Rose (Columbia/Legacy)

Willie Nelson & Ray price

San Antonio Rose (Columbia/Legacy) Ready for even more Willie? These four LPs from the late Seventies and 1980 simultaneously capture Nelson at his most humble and most Hollywood. After Red Headed Stranger and Stardust, the Bearded One was as much an acolyte of the old masters as ever, but now also a multiplatinum-selling superstar with the commercial clout to do whatever he pleased. So in 1975, as Stranger took the world by storm, he recorded a tribute to one of his greatest influences, honky-tonk legend Lefty Frizzell. Abbott native Nelson and the Corsicana-born Frizzell grew up practically neighbors, and it shows in To Lefty From Willie's practiced care and easy familiarity. Nelson's superb band sinks its teeth into the spare melancholy of classic honky-tonk for "Look What Thoughts Will Do" and a luxuriant "Always Late (With Your Kisses)." "She's Gone, Gone, Gone" sparkles thanks to Bobbie Nelson's glinting piano rolls, and a frisky "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time" appears on the reissue. Not quite essential, but an excellent frame of reference nonetheless. Willie and Family Live, on the other hand, is a choice example of Willie's telepathic bond with his so-called family. Recorded at Harrah's Casino in Lake Tahoe one raucous 1978 evening, Nelson and his seven mates maintain a deadly precision as this 2-CD behemoth seesaws from lightning-quick shuffles and aching blues to salty Southern rock and hair-raising gospel in a set that doesn't let up from "Whiskey River" on down. A 14-minute Red Headed Stranger operetta halfway through is positively riveting. The soundtrack to Nelson's 1980 star vehicle Honeysuckle Rose also contains several well-known live standards, alongside efforts from cronies Johnny Gimble, Hank Cochran, and Emmylou Harris. Bookended by the bow of "On the Road Again" and an uplifiting "Uncloudy Day," Honeysuckle Rose is more than a vanity project, no thanks to Nelson's duets with co-stars Amy Irving and Dyan Cannon. Ray Price, with whom he recorded 1980's San Antonio Rose, makes a much more suitable partner. His former employer's oaken baritone provides an ideal anchor for Nelson's laid-back tenor as the pair swap verses on lush favorites like "Crazy Arms" and "Faded Love." Unhurried, gentle, and meandering, Nelson's principal virtue and everlasting gift is his stalwart belief in whatever song he's singing at the moment. That simple fact, well in evidence on these reissues, is just as true today.

(To Lefty; Live) ****

(San Antonio Rose) ***.5

(Honeysuckle Rose) ***

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
George Strait
Honky Tonk Time Machine (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, May 3, 2019

Texas Platters
Dale Watson
Call Me Lucky (Record Review)

Rick Weaver, May 3, 2019

More by Christopher Gray
Margaret Moser Tribute: The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones
That Margaret Moser, she’s a rainbow

June 30, 2017

Margaret Moser Tribute: Patricia Vonne
Patricia Vonne
Shine a light

June 30, 2017

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle