The Year of Willie
Willie Nelson - Willie and Family Live
Part Two of Eight
First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2003, Volume 10, #11
Written by John Metzger
Willie and Family Live
No matter to what genre Willie Nelson turned for inspiration on his studio albums or how doled up the end product became, his concerts have always maintained an edge, drawing heavily from rock ’n‘ roll in offering a rousing brew of outlaw country. For certain, there’s no better document of his performances — nor any finer greatest hits compilation — than Willie and Family Live. This 31-song, two-disc set, which includes guest appearances by Emmylou Harris and Johnny Paycheck, positively springs to life in its remastered state, which expands the collection by two tracks — Rodney Crowell’s Till I Gain Control Again and Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia on My Mind — both alternate takes.
Recorded at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe in April 1978, Willie and Family Live fuses every aspect of Nelson’s being — folk, rock, blues, Western swing, jazz, gospel, pop, and, of course, country — into one remarkable package. Backed by a band that featured two drummers (Paul English and Rex Ludwick) as well as two bass players (Bee Spears and Chris Ethridge), Nelson had all the rhythmic support he needed to be able to explore fully the hidden nooks and crannies of each song. From the fiery playing that filled the rollicking Good Hearted Woman to the wisps of harmonica, acoustic guitar, and piano that kissed the gentle refrain of Till I Gain Control Again, from the way that Bloody Mary Morning opened into a pulsating roadhouse jam to the expansive treatment that was given to Amazing Grace, it was clear that this was a group that was capable of covering a lot of ground with extraordinary agility. Though only four songs of the original 29 cracked the four-minute mark, the account that was captured on Willie and Family Live found Nelson having more in common with the Grateful Dead than his Nashville, or even his Texas, brethren. He and his band effortlessly shifted from one tune to the next, linking Johnny Bush’s Whiskey River with Bob Wills’ Stay All Night, Stay a Little Longer, turning Funny How Time Slips Away, Crazy, and Night Life into the perfect trilogy, and condensing the entire Red Headed Stranger album into a fourteen-minute medley. Indeed, there’s nary a wrong turn taken throughout this full-length concert recording, which is as good as any album Nelson ever released.
Of Further Interest...
Part One: To Lefty from Willie
Part Three: San Antonio Rose
Part Four: Honeysuckle Rose
Part Six: Always on My Mind
Part Seven: Pancho & Lefty
Part Eight: Tougher than Leather
Willie and Family Live is available
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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