Whiskey River, take my mind
John S. Ryan | Silver Lake, OH | 09/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"They just don't come any cooler than Willie Nelson. And this is a terrific collection of his older music.
Before American country music went _entirely_ corporate-prefab (at least in Nashville), there was a little group of singers and songwriters that people dubbed the 'Outlaws'. Depending who you asked, this group tended to include at least Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Our Hero.
The tendency (with exceptions) was for these guys to be -- in contrast to the clean-cut down-home simple aw-shucks 'country boy' of popular fancy -- a bunch of rowdy long-haired hippie-redneck maverick-rebel-iconoclast good old bad old boys. It was speculated that they were occasionally less sober than judges, and it was even rumored that one or two of them might perhaps have smoked a little weed once in a while. Their voices were raw, they wore bandanas on their heads instead of around their necks, and their guitars were sort of twangy. The general impression was that you might not want your daughter to date them but they would probably be a helluva lot of fun to go drinking with.
Well, all right, that image was as carefully cultivated in its way as the one it was supposed to replace. But damn, these guys played _real_ country music, like Haink an' Loretty done. Turn on your local country radio station today and you'll hear the contrast at once.
Willie was and is the very coolest of this crew. By the measure of coolness alone, he stands in a class _almost_ by himself -- 'almost' because J.J. Cale and Neil Young also exist. In his way he's every bit as iconoclastic (and even surreal) as Neil. Like Neil, he's something of an acquired taste. And like Neil, he's neither bound by nor terribly interested in our quaint musical conventions and the artificial lines we like to draw between allegedly different types of music. In fact, he might well object to my describing even his early stuff as 'country'.
This particular CD collects most (not all) of his cream-of-the-crop 1980-and-earlier material. It doesn't replace (say) _Red-Headed Stranger_. But it will (a) introduce you to this living legend if you haven't heard much of him before, and (b) provide you a handy disc to pop into your player when you just want to listen to your favorite songs.
The older I get, the more I find myself looking back on the artists I've listened to for the past forty years and discovering which ones really have staying power. Somewhat to my surprise (since I never really considered myself an avid fan of his), Willie is wearing much, much better than most of them."
You Can Do Much Better
Steven R. Seim | Beaver Dam, WI United States | 07/13/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This collection is actually missing some of Willie's best songs - "Always on My Mind," "City of New Orleans," "Poncho & Lefty," etc. Try Columbia's "Super Hits" instead."