Norman Warwick reads about Willie Nelson


´When talking about any kind of grass—green, blue, whatever—it’s always great to have country star Willie Nelson involved. The “outlaw” icon released his latest record, Bluegrass, on Friday (September 15) and the record, in a word, is a romp´.

Those above are the words of Jacob Iotti, one of several excellent writers at American Songwriter. If you are looking for a magazine that fully understand and cherishes the importance of lyric to song and of lyric and song to us a species, then American Songwriter is one of leaders of that pack.

They constantly have me saying to myself, yes I get that, as I´m reading when the truth is probably that I have only just that moment actuallyu ´got it´, and ´it´ being explained to me so effectively that I immediately feel I have known that all my life !

In a couple of recent articles they very easily placed a Willie Nelson up on Songwriting Summit, simply by reminding us that some of his best songs are over fifty years and still seem as fresh as the moment when the pod went pop. In so positively reviewing his most recent album, Bluegrass, They also reaffirmed his longevity and relevance as a performing artist.

For the 90-year-old Nelson, the new LP (left) is also an achievement. It’s his sixth album since 2020—something many artists in their 20s can’t boast. Nelson offers a softer, thoughtful voice on the new LP, which is rich with slide acoustic guitars, mandolins, fiddles, and more. Like a Southern gentleman sitting on the porch, he offers wisdom as much as entertainment. The whole town gathered ’round.

The Texas-born Nelson has done just about everything in music. So, why not a buoyant bluegrass album in 2023? Bluegrass marks Nelson’s 74th release. It’s also the first in recent memory that Nelson didn’t play his signature guitar, Trigger, on the recordings, he told AARP.

The 12-track album sounds like it’s a record of standards. But Nelson either wrote or co-wrote every song of the dozen. It feels like a deep breath by a genius, a lifer. It’s almost as if he dreams in song and this is a window into his journeyman mind. The album also feels special because of its stripped-down acoustic nature. It’s as if it’s a Willie Nelson Unplugged release. But that’s also the beauty of bluegrass.

In the end, the LP is something you can put on at a party to get the feet flying and the shirt-tails waving. It’s also perfect for a Saturday drive down the highway, sunshine on your sunglassed face. Or it’s an album to put on with your morning coffee to equally parse and appreciate openly.

Most tracks are familiar to Nelson fans, including “On the Road Again.” But no matter if you know them or not, all are lovable like a warm roll from the oven.

She’s a good-hearted woman in love with a good timin’ man
She loves me in spite of my wicked ways that she don’t understand
Through teardrops and laughter
They’ll pass through this world hand in hand
A good-hearted woman lovin’ a good timin’ man

Willie. What a legend. In the end, fans can only say “thank you” for all the artist’s music. And here’s to record No. 75, whenever it’s set to come out and whatever it may be. In the meantime, we can jam to the tunes on Bluegrass.

In the expansive landscape of American music, and especially country music, Willie Nelson stands as a towering figure. Known the world over for hits like “On the Road Again,” he’s deservedly celebrated as a captivating performer and committed activist, as well. Yet, his artistry in songwriting is a less-explored facet, despite its crucial role in shaping American music. Hence, we’re examining six pivotal compositions that capture Shotgun Willie’s unparalleled storytelling abilities.

These songs are much more than hits (right) . They’re landmarks in the vast terrain of American art and culture. Each piece serves as a unique window into a world filled with love, loss, and complex human emotions. 

The next time you find yourself humming along to a Willie Nelson tune, remember: you’re experiencing a living, breathing piece of Americana crafted by one of the country’s most gifted songsmiths.

Perhaps one of the most compelling narratives around Nelson’s song-writing prowess starts with “Crazy.” Originally penned for country star Billy Walker, it found its way into the hands (and voice) of Patsy Cline, subsequently becoming a staple in the annals of American music. “Crazy” wasn’t merely a song; it was an encapsulation of emotional complexity, weaving vulnerability and longing into a swooning country ballad that would transcend generations. 

“Night Life” takes us through the dark, neon-lit corridors of existential despair. Originally part of Nelson’s debut album …And Then I Wrote, this song is a significant departure from country’s predominant themes at the time. It bears the fingerprints of Nelson’s sophisticated musical language: jazzy chords, introspective lyrics, and a haunting ambiance. A study in contrast, the song laces the frenetic energy of nocturnal escapades with the inherent loneliness such experiences often mask.

Funny How Time Slips Away is an early Willie Nelson tune embodies the bittersweet sentiment of nostalgia and the passage of time. Released as part of his debut album …And Then I Wrote, the song is a study in the depth of human emotions that Nelson can evoke through his lyrics and melody.

A standout from the soundtrack to Honeysuckle Rose (a 1980 film in which Nelson starred), “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” is a complex tapestry of emotion, capturing romance, loss, and redemption in a way only Nelson can. This song exhibits the singer’s range not only as a performer but as a thoughtful and nuanced songwriter. With its poetic lyrics and delicate balance of optimism and melancholy, the song is a master class in story-telling.

If our previous Sidetracks And Detours signposts failed to lead you to American Songwriter, you can find their details on line. Happy reading.

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