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Willie Nelson Feeling the Rastaman Vibration

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Willie Nelson is currently our greatest exemplar of the American(a) songbook as it stretches over prairie, plain, purple mountain majesties, delta, bayou, and honky tonks remote and urbane. Over a 50-year career he has absorbed and personalized as astonishing array of indiginous American musics, including Nashville, western, Tex-Mex, Texas songer-songwriter, western swing, blues, jazz, cajun, Broadway, standards, rockabilly, and in recent years he has allowed his ever-wandering ear to drift even farther south, into the Caribbean, where the sunny rhythms and melodies of the islands match his irie sensibilities.

On August 2, Lost Highway will release Countryman, the 10-years-in- the-making reggae set from Willie Nelson. Countryman features 12 tracks, including two covers from Jimmy Cliff’s classic The Harder They Come soundtrack (the title track and “Sitting In Limbo”).

Countryman also includes the Johnny Cash/June Carter Cash penned “I’m A Worried Man,” which is given a sunsplash treatment by Nelson and Toots Hibbert, of the legendary Toots and the Maytals. Willie and Toots have been pals for a while: Nelson appeared on Toots’ Grammy-winning duets album, True Love, last spring, and Toots returned the favor, appearing on Willie’s Outlaws & Angels DVD last fall.

Countryman also includes nine songs written by the Red Headed Stranger, including reggae-styled versions of “Darkness On The face Of The Earth,” “One In A Row,” “I’ve Just Destroyed The World” and “I’ll Still Be Thinking of You.”

The history behind Countryman dates back to 1995, when Nelson, his manager Mark Rothbaum and producer Don Was traveled to Jamaica for a meeting with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell to discuss a reggae-infused country album. Blackwell loved the idea, but made the deal based on hearing another project Willie had given him, which would become Nelson’s notable album Spirit. Spirit was released in 1996, while Blackwell gave the okay to begin recording the reggae set. This was the official beginning of Nelson’s relationship with Island Records.

Over the next two years, while the music that would become Countryman was being recorded, Universal bought Polygram, which owned Island, and Blackwell parted ways with the company – the project no longer had its champion. Was and Nelson finished recording the basic tracks and the music was shelved unfinished.

In 2001 Island merged with Def Jam and Nelson moved over to the
newly formed Lost Highway, where label founder Luke Lewis and Nelson discussed the reggae project. In 2004, Lost Highway VP of A&R Kim Buie hired producer Richard Feldman (fresh off of Toots’ True Love) to finally mix the album and add some production.

And now, after some serious incubation, Willie Nelson’s Countryman will see the bright Caribbean light of day.

Track Listing

1. “Something To Think About”
(written by Willie Nelson)

2. “How Long Is Forever”
(written by Willie Nelson)

3. “I’m A Worried Man” w/Toots Hibbert
(written by Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash)

4. “The Harder They Come”

(written by Jimmy Cliff)

5. “I’ll Still Be Thinking Of You”
(written by Willie Nelson)

6. “Sitting In Limbo”
(written by Bright Plummer & James Chambers)

7. “Darkness On The Face Of The Earth”
(written by Willie Nelson)

8. “One In A Row”
(written by Willie Nelson)

9. “I’ve Just Destroyed The World”
(written by Willie Nelson & Ray Price)

10. “You Left A Long, Long Time Ago”
(written by Willie Nelson)

11. “I Guess I’ve Come To Live Here”
(written by Willie Nelson)

12. “Undo The Right”
(written by Willie Nelson & Hank Cochran)

Nelson will join Bob Dylan for the second summer in a row to tour minor league baseball parks, beginning May 25 in Fort Myers, Fla. Bob will also join Willie at his annual 4th of July Picnic event at the Stockyards in Fort Worth, Texas.

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About Eric Olsen

  • SFC SKI

    I look forward to hearing this, Willie may make you scratch your head, but he seldom falis to please the listener.

  • Eric Olsen

    he’s a living musical variety show

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    This now has another venue for success – and more eyes – at the Advance.net Web sites, a place affiliated with about 12 newspapers.

    One such site is here.

    Even though it is a little delayed, also please let your contact know, if you had one, that this article, is published at one more place. That helps to show they get two?, three? for the “price” of one.

    Thank you.
    Temple Stark

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