Part One: Willie’s Legacy
There is no doubt that Willie Nelson’s entire song catalog is way beyond the comprehension of all but his biggest fans. Everybody will tell you they have heard of him, some because of his music and others because of his love for a good smoke, but few can really talk about his song catalog with any real depth. To celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday, Sony Legacy has released One Hell of A Ride
One Hell of a Ride is the perfect primer for those wanting to get a good, but not totally comprehensive, collection of his musical output from 1954 all the way up to 2008. The box starts out with Nelson’s very first recording "When I’ve Sang My Last Hillbilly Song." It’s a song that sounds like it was recorded in someone’s washroom but even so you immediately hear the unique voice and persona that is Nelson.
The CD then progresses with heartfelt ballads like "Crazy" (that songstress Patsy Cline made her own) to foot-stomping numbers like "Texas in My Soul" and the humorous but cautionary vibe of "I Gotta Get Drunk," where Willie justifies his ways by singing “There’s a lotta doctors that tell me that I better start slowing it down / but there’s more old drunks than there are old doctors so I guess we better have another round.”
The second disc moves along in the same vein and features some of Nelson's best known songs like "Mama Don’t Let You Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" (As famously covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks) and the hit "If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got The Time."
The final two disks continue with Nelson singing song after song solo and alongside greats like Roger Miller, Ray Price, Ray Charles, and Waylon Jennings. There are also a handful of priceless covers like "What a Wonderful World," a beautiful take on Neil Young’s "Heart of Gold," and a stunning rendition of Paul Simon’s "Graceland."
My only complaint is there aren’t any live cuts from Nelson's appearances at the Farm Aid benefit concerts he helped start. Otherwise, this is a great overview of the enigma known as Willie Nelson.
Part Two: Still Riding High
Willie is currently on the road promoting his latest album Moment of Forever. The album showcases and older and wiser Willie Nelson. The album instantly hooks listeners with infectious "I’ve Got to Get Over You Again" and the current, socially potent, single "Gravedigger." You can tell that Nelson has remained potent because he has grown not only as a musician but as a man.
As a treat Nelson closes the album with a totally revamped take on the Bob Dylan masterpiece "Gotta Serve Somebody" a perfect track for the current, uncertain election year. God Bless Willie Nelson.