The Year of Willie
Willie Nelson - To Lefty from Willie
Part One of Eight
First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2003, Volume 10, #11
Written by John Metzger
Itís possible that 2003 will become known as "the year of Willie," and despite Senator Hillary Clintonís new book dredging up topics better left forgotten, this Willie has nothing to do with the vast right-wing conspiracy. No, this Willie is Willie Nelson, one of the biggest country artists of all-time. The onslaught began back in January ó although it would also be easy to make the case that it actually began back in the 1970s as heís issued multiple albums and compilations in more years than not ó with the release of Crazy: The Demo Sessions, a terrific collection of recently discovered, very early material. Since then, Nelson has added a live concert recording and DVD (Willie Nelson & Friends: Live and Kickiní), a new collaboration with Ray Price (Run That by Me One More Time), two greatest hits sets (Columbiaís The Essential Willie Nelson and RCAís Platinum & Gold Collection), and five remastered reissues (To Lefty from Willie, Willie and Family Live, Honeysuckle Rose, San Antonio Rose, and Yesterdayís Wine). Thatís just through August, and thereís more to come. Thank goodness, itís nearly impossible to tire of hearing Nelsonís music. His catalog is so diverse that one can sustain oneself for quite some time before needing to look elsewhere for musical fulfillment. Hereís a brief glimpse at several of the recent reissues, each of which showcases a different side of Nelsonís complex persona:
To Lefty from Willie
Willie Nelson is not merely a stellar songwriter, heís also a masterful interpreter of other peopleís works. Perhaps there is no better example in all of his vast catalog than To Lefty from Willie, a tribute to his pal and fellow Texan Lefty Frizzell. Originally recorded in 1975 ó the same year Nelson released the classic concept album Red Headed Stranger ó the project was shelved for two years after Frizzellís untimely death because Nelson didnít want to appear as if he was trying to capitalize upon it.
At the time, Nelson was on quite a roll, too. The 1970s yielded his most consistent string of albums, and To Lefty from Willie was no exception, even if it is an oft-overlooked effort. The ten-song set was graceful and easy going, sounding as much like a Nelson outing as it did a tribute to Frizzell. The subtle instrumentation blended his trademark guitar with piano, harmonica, drums, and bass, all of which served to gently underscore the songs, placing the emphasis where it belonged ó on Nelsonís emotive vocals. From the profession of love and affection on I Love You a Thousand Ways and Mom and Dadís Waltz to the heartbreak of Always Late (with Your Kisses), Nelson was as comfortable as could be, filling each tune with raw, honest emotion. Without a doubt, To Lefty from Willy was a labor of love, but it also turned out to be the one of the finest collections of Frizzellís songs ever compiled. The reissue includes a single bonus track ó a short, but intense rendition of If Youíve Got the Money, Iíve Got the Time.
Of Further Interest...
Part Two: Willie and Family Live
Part Three: San Antonio Rose
Part Four: Honeysuckle Rose
Part Six: Always on My Mind
Part Seven: Pancho & Lefty
Part Eight: Tougher than Leather
To Lefty from Willie is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box