Red-headed Stranger

Willie Nelson and Band at Outlaw Field, July 26, 2016.

Willie Nelson and Band at Outlaw Field, July 26, 2016.

For Willie Nelson, old age seems to be something that happens to someone else. Tueaday night, in concert, if you closed your eyes, he still sounded pretty much the same as he did back in the 1970s. At age 83, he still plays guitar with the best and, despite emphysema from all those years of smoking, his voice is still smooth, even if he can’t sustain long notes and bridges the way he used to.

At baking hot Outlaw Field Tuesday night, Willie gave the crowd a tour through his songbook and a few of his favorite songs by his friends. The set included:

Whiskey River
Beer for My Horses (by Toby Keith)
Good-hearted Woman
Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies (Grow Up to Be Cowboys)
Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground
On the Road Again
Always on My Mind (by Johnny Christopher)
Jambalaya (On the Bayou) (by Hank Williams)
Hey Good Lookin’ ((by Hank Williams)
Move It on Over (by Hank Williams)
Georgia on My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael)
Time Slips Away
It’s My Life
Me and Paul
If You Got the Money (by Lefty Frizzel)
Shoeshine Man (by Tom T. Hall)

WC isn’t really a fan of country music, but you have to admit, that’s one heckuva song list. Willie turned “It’s My Life” into a solid blues tune and let the band have some fun on it. Speaking of the band, The Family, Willie’s backing band, was solid, as you’d expect after more than 40 years playing together. And The Family really is still family; the keyboardist is Bobby Nelson, Willie’s sister.


WC also has to mention Trigger, Willie’s guitar.

Trigger, Willie's Martin N-20 nylon-stringed classical guitar

Trigger, what’s left of Willie’s Martin N-20 nylon-stringed classical guitar

Or at least what’s left of Trigger. The story is that Willie bought Trigger sight unseen in 1969 after a drunk stepped on his old guitar and smashed it. You can see that frets are worn flat, the body has a gaping hole, a wooden peg holds the sounding board to the body and the instrument is worn to next to nothing. There’s another story that when Willie’s house burnt in Nashville in 1970, he ran back inside to rescue a pound of weed and Trigger.

By the way, Trigger still sounds great, and Willie can still make it cry and sing.

Despite the heat, it was a fine show by a man who hasn’t always had it easy. It’s easy to call an artist a legend, but in the case of Willie Nelson it might actually be true.

Thanks for stopping by, Willie. Great to see you. Great to hear you.