What do you say about an 81-year-old man who had his first hit as a songwriter in the 1950s, writing half of a dozen of the greatest songs in the history of American popular music between 1958 and 1963, including “Hello Walls” for Faron Young, “Pretty Paper” for Roy Orbison, “Funny How Time Slips Away” for Billy Walker, and “Crazy” for Patsy Cline? These four songs, done before his first album as a solo performer, would have been enough to cement his reputation. But in the next six decades, he released 68 solo albums, ten live albums, 37 best of compilations, 27 collaborative albums, acted in 34 films, and did the soundtrack to two of them. Nelson has worked with basically everyone: old country stalwarts like Webb Peirce, Merle Haggard, and Dolly Parton; ancient pop crooners like Don Cherry; cutting a blues album with Wynton Marsalis and a reggae track with Snoop Dogg.
Willie Nelson has been a prolific singer and recording artist since the 1970s, but the songwriter who penned hits for Ray Price, Patsy Cline, Billy Walker, and Johnny Cash, among others, hasn't issued an album of predominantly original material since 1996. Band of Brothers ends the drought. Its 14 selections include nine new songs by Nelson (with producer Buddy Cannon) and a handful of fine covers.
As he enters his 80s, Willie Nelson remains both a national monument and an impossibly prolific artist, playing hundreds of shows every year and releasing albums at a pace that makes Guided By Voices look like Guns N' Roses. Even with such undiminished output, however, Band of Brothers arrives with a great deal of expectations. It’s his first collection to feature predominantly newly penned songs in nearly 20 years.
Willie NelsonBand Of BrothersLegacy3.5 out of 5 Stars “There is no gain without pain, well I must be gaining a lot” are the first words of Willie Nelson’s latest (and surely not his last) record, Band of Brothers. The album, an ambitious fourteen song affair that features Jamey Johnson on the Billie Joe Shaver tune “The Git Go,” is largely comprised of the type of the laid back country waltzes one might expect from Nelson. But there’s also mid-tempo rhythm and blues (“Used to Her”), playful rockabilly (“Crazy Like Me”), and heartbreaking balllads (“Whenever You Come Around”).
A minute into Willie Nelson's new set of songs – largely self-penned for a change – it's clear the man who wrote Patsy Cline's "Crazy" 50-some years ago has lost neither verve nor cojones. Co-writing with producer Buddy Cannon, Nelson sticks to his wheelhouse: love, heartache, rambling and music-making itself. The vocals remain indelibly creaky against stony acoustic guitar, bright steel whines and dusty harmonica whinnies.
Willie Nelson's music is Artisan Country by this point — finely crafted art in a traditional medium that caters to a specific niche. It means that while the work is consistent and solid, it's rarely exciting. Much of the first half Band of Brothers slumps along and starts to bleed together. That's not to say that Willie is no longer capable of dropping a song that reaches great depths of emotional songwriting: the ode to lovesickness "Whenever You Come Around" is truly heartbreaking and might be Nelson's best vocal moment on the album.
Nelson's mammoth discography has its flat spots, but since changing labels two years ago the cowboy sage has been on a roll. This is his first album of (mostly) originals in an age, and while nothing matches his peaks – at 81, that would be a shock – it's still a delight. There's a wry, autobiographical slant to the best songs; defiant on Bring It On, rueful on The Wall, gleeful on Wives and Girlfriends, and proud on a title track that celebrates his fellow "outlaws".
"Well, it seems that I've been here before/ So if this means that there is more – bring it on." So intones a familiar, reedy voice, none the worse for wear over 81 years and delivering the titular punch line with characteristic Lone Star Zen: laissez-faire delivery of steel resolve. Halfway through the first verse of the first song on the first album of predominantly self-penned material since 1996, Willie Nelson sounds downright pugilistic. On the occasion of his last set of originals, Spirit (inhale "Twisted Williemania," Feb.
“The record people nowadays keep spinning round and round. Songs about the back roads that they never have been down. They go and call it country, but that ain’t the way it sounds… It’s hard to be an Outlaw who ain’t wanted anymore,” drawls Willie Nelson in his trademark nasal delivery, on “Hard To Be An Outlaw,” the Billie Joe Shaver-penned fuck you to modern country music.
Willie Nelson the songwriter reappears on “Band of Brothers,” his first album since 1996 to feature a majority of his own new songs. It’s a serenely feisty autumnal statement from the singer, who forged his sage, grizzled persona decades ago. Mr. Nelson’s song “Funny How Time Slips Away.
Willie Nelson has a problem. It’s not weed; it’s age. Like Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young before him—or after him, even—Nelson is running up against the burden of his own material. Simply put: He’s got too many great songs. Having written and recorded so many ….