Spotify Listen Link: Willie Nelson – Heroes
I'm hoping someone else out feels the same way I do about Willie: he's the Grandpa figure you love, and just happen to find out is amazingly cool. This is a man who's worked with an is beloved by everyone from all walks of life. He helps people remember what unity through music was always like, and I have such admiration for him that I know, without a doubt, his new album had to get onto this blog.
A quick history lesson, just because I've never had a proper one on him before.
The Red Headed Stranger is originally from Texas, born in 1933 (a new album at 79? Hot damn.). He's technically 'outlaw country,' something that came around in the 60's as a reaction to conservatism in the Nashville sound. He owns the bio-diesel brand by his own name, made from vegetable oil. And yes, he wants to legalize pot, but I think some of you out there may have already known that.
BTW - album count: 2 soundtracks, 37 compilations, 10 live albums, and 66 STUDIO ALBUMS.
This album is the first release on his new deal with Legacy Recordings, and includes past releases complimented with outtakes, right alongside the new material. All of which we are going to start listening to right.... now.
"A Horse Called Music" is first up with Merle Haggard. It's a gentle rocking into the album, bringing us into the best theme of love of music that there is. It's a solemn tune of a man and his life. It's marked by memories of travels and the thing you can take with you throughout them. I don't know what else to say here, in all honesty. It's a great way to start an album, with a tone of memory.
A few years ago "Roll Me Up" came out, including Snoop Dogg (er, Lion now?), Kris Kristofferson, and Jamey Johnson. I remember this being a thing, because Willie and Snoop came out together for the CMT awards that year. I was working backstage, and they walked past me. (1) Snoop is crazy tall. (2) Snoop looks awesome in black cowboy gear. (3) This song is SO much fun. Please give it a listen.
"That's All There Is To This Song" is our first Willie-solo song of the album. It's a gentle dance hall song, where you grab the one you love and/or long for, and dance nice and slow to them. Damn, I totally belong in another time. Even the song sings of just simple romance and love and that being all that's needed.
Willie has two songs, Lukas and Micah, who perform with him. Lukas frequently appears on this album, sounding like a slightly bass-ier version of his pops. This is the first one we hear him in, "No Place To Fly." It's a slow and steady song about a memory lingering on, no matter where you go or what you do. It's got a really sad tone to it, harping on the idea of an angel with no place to fly away to. Is this about a lost person in life? I'm not sure, but man does that sweet, sad harmonica make it sound that way.
"Every Time He Drinks He Thinks of Her" seems like a really sad title, though the music sort of gives the impression otherwise at first. This is another song with his song Lukas, by the way. Anywhos, this is certainly a country song, especially given such a story. He forgets the girl when he wakes up, so all is well, but that memory is always in the bottles as he drinks again. So, yeah, I guess it is a rather sad song when it all comes down to it. There's like... kind of hope? But let's be honest with ourselves. Or else quit drinking.
Sheryl Crow joins the Nelsons for "Come On Up To The House." It's definitely got a little more of the pop/soul edge that I guess Sheryl brings to music (I may have mentioned this before - I'm not a huge fan). The song's slower, and more down-home-ish. It does seem like a coming-home sort of song. I mean, when you think of a setting like this, it usually involves a loving family there to welcome you on in with open arms. Plus there's an organ that just boasts of the southern church down the road. By the way, Sheryl doesn't start in until 2:00, and I have to say, I like her better in just about ever other song I've ever heard her sing in. Tom Waits originally did this one, by the way.
"Hero" is one of the few songs not t include Lukas. This time, Willie is accompanied by Jamey Johnson and Billy Joe Shaver. Together, they reminisce about a man from the bars they once new. They pray for this guy that they normally see in the bars every night, because on this rare occasion, their hero is nowhere to be found.
Lukas is back and the boys are picking up the pace a bit with "My Window Faces the South." As cute a lyrical sentiment as it may be (or maybe I'm just jealous of the view), the real point here seems to be the guitar work. It's damn impressively done, as if that's a surprise at all. Fingers are moving awfully quick, creating a bit of their own song along the way. It's an old sounding number, but one I think anyone could (or should) appreciate.
"The Sound Of Your Memory" plays on like a sad cry in the night. Did you expect any different given the title? The father and son duo trade off lyrics of their own memories, haunting their respective minds. This song is gorgeous, even if it's liable to bring tears to any eyes. I guess it's about the one who got away. And in that fashion, I'm going to close out this paragraph and take some deep breaths.
I missed a lot of "Cold War With You" which includes Ray Price. It seems like a sweet enough sounding song, very typical in old country fashion. It's funny - I keep wanting to call so many of these songs classic country, but they're not. They're really Willie's Outlaw Country style that makes him so damn good.
"Just Breathe" is an entirely familiar tune, so give it a listen. We did find out early on that this album would include some old tunes as well as new ones. This is a classic, re-recorded with father and song. The message is clear: stay here and just breathe; relax. I don't think there's much more to it than that, and the sentiment is great in this insanely busy world. Why be everything in the world all at once. It'd be nice to just stop for a moment. Don't add more to is all than is needed. And this is it.
"Come On Back Jesus" include Micah, Willie's other son. The opening line includes: "come on back jesus and pick up John Wayne on the way." Come on now - who out there isn't nodding in agreement and laughing all at once right now? Basically, we're in a crazy world where we could truly use both to help us all out. Wouldn't the world be a better place for it? Ahh Westerns.
We're at the final song, and the one I've been wondering/excited for this entire time: Willie's cover of "The Scientist" by Coldplay. This is the second of the only two songs that Willie takes on alone. While Willie's voce is sort of out of place, I think this has the same effect as Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt." It's bittersweet, quite full of emotion and unexpected. There is a country twang to it, but the heavy nature of the song holds strong. It's really a beautiful hidden gem of music.
Added to My Playlist:
- "Roll Me Up"
- "That's All There Is To This Song"
- "The Sound Of Your Memory"
- "Just Breathe"
- "The Scientist"
I always hold a soft spot for Willie Nelson, based just on his legend alone. If you have any sort of appreciation for country, you know and adore him. If you appreciate a badass who does what he wants, you know he's a role model. This is a man who continues on in music doing exactly what he wants, clearly making friends along the way. From old to new to cover, this album continues to solidify this man's legacy.