Crazy: The Demo Sessions
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2003, Volume 10, #4
Written by John Metzger
If New York Cityís Brill Building was once considered the thriving kingdom of pop songcraft, then its country equivalent was the Pamper Music office in Nashville. It was there that young songwriters ó including Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard ó imagined and penned hits for the likes of Charlie Walker, Faron Young, Guy Mitchell, and Ray Price (who, not coincidentally, co-owned the company with Hal Smith). Leaving Texas behind, aspiring artist Willie Nelson traveled to Nashville where he met Cochran and was introduced to the Pamper Music staff. They liked his songs, but were unable to pay him a "liveable wage" ó that is until Cochran offered to give up a $50 per week raise if the money were used to hire Nelson. A deal was struck, and Nelson immediately began to work, writing at a feverish pitch.
In 1994, a collection of these early works was found within the vaults of publishing giant Sony/ATV/Tree on a reel-to-reel tape labeled only with the nondescript moniker of "Pamper Demos." It is these recordings that comprise the recently released Crazy: The Demo Sessions. Half the album features sparse arrangements ó often just Nelson accompanying himself on guitar. While itís true that the sound quality is, at times, a little rough around the edges ó which isnít all that surprising, given that most demos were low-budget, single-take, live-in-the-studio affairs, designed mainly to showcase a song for another artist ó the nine songs beautifully demonstrate how early Nelson developed his own performing style. Indeed, these tracks stand in stark contrast to their more popular, radio-friendly counterparts, and in many cases, they are actually superior, if only because they better capture the haunted sadness inherent in his lyrics. Good as the versions of Iíve Just Destroyed the World and Darkness on the Face of the Earth were on Nelsonís more recent Teatro project, there is just something absolutely heartbreaking about the solo versions included here, and the same could be said about any of the other tunes, too.
As for the remaining nine songs on Crazy: The Demo Sessions, they feature Nelson backed by a variety of session musicians, including esteemed steel guitar players Jimmy Day and Buddy Emmons. Whether with a band or without, however, the fact remains that this album offers a rare glimpse at a legend in the making and an insightful look at a songwriter whose talent just needed an opportunity to shine.
Of Further Interest...
Crazy: The Demo Sessions is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box