RIDE ME BACK HOME (SONY-LEGACY)
WILLIE HIGH IN THE SADDLE AT 86
“We rode into battle barebacked and saddled/ you took the wound in your side/ you pulled the sleds and you pulled the wagons/ you gave them somewhere to hide/ now they don't need you and there's no one to feed you/ and there's fences where you used to roam/ I wish I could gather up all of your brothers/ and you would just ride me back home.” - Ride Me Back Home - Joe Manuel-Lucinda Hinton-Debby Lynn and Sonny Throckmorton
Shotgun Willie Nelson proved in his video for his 69th studio album title track Ride Me Back Home he stills ride high in the saddle with no need to dismount.
Willie, a ripe young 86-year-old, chose that song - one of the few he didn't write on his album - as its title.
The song's equine freedom message - equally relevant down under with threats to high country Brumbies - echoes human liberation Willie has extolled since leaving east Texas hometown Abbott as a teenager.
Willie loves horses and humans - including pianist sister Bobbie, now 88, with equal passion.
The song was co-written by Sonny Throckmorton who was inspired after hearing of Willie's work adopting horses that he stables at his Texas Hill Country ranch.
A picture of Willie and horse adorns the front cover of Ride Me Back Home and his care for horses is the backdrop for the video.
Ride Me Back Home concludes a trilogy of albums with mortality themes that began with 2017's God's Problem Child and Last Man Standing in 2018.
Willie's love of nature extends to his longevity that he attributes to a side dish of the herb superb.
"I wouldn't be alive. It saved my life, really. I wouldn't have lived 85 years if I'd kept drinking and smoking like I was when I was 30, 40 years old," Willie told Rolling Stone on the eve of the release of Ride Me Back Home .
"I think that weed kept me from wanting to kill people. And probably kept a lot of people from wanting to kill me, too - out there drunk, running around."
Willie, who headlined his 46th July 4 picnic and hosts annual Farm Aid concerts and Outlaw Music Festivals , gave up cigarettes and whiskey in 1978.
He recalls weed played a big role in helping him give up those vices.
"I had a pack of 20 Chesterfields , and I threw them away and rolled up 20 fat joints, stuck them in there," he explained.
"I haven't smoked a cigarette since. I haven't drank that much, either, because one will make me want the other. I smoke a cigarette, I wanna drink a whiskey. Drink a whiskey, want a cigarette. That's me. I can't speak for nobody else."
Nelson is such a passionate believer in positive effects of cannabis he and fourth wife Annie launched their own line of marijuana and marijuana products, Willie's Reserve , in 2015.
He also introduced new hemp-infused products - Willie's Remedy Relief Balm and Willie's Remedy Tea.
Those healing products infused with full-spectrum hemp oil follow flagship products Willie's Remedy Coffee and Willie's Remedy Hemp Oil Tincture.
The Remedy Relief Balm is inspired by cannabis topical that Annie created in her kitchen and used for years, with her husband, band and numerous friends.
That muscle balm contains shea butter, coconut oil, and full spectrum hemp flower oil concentrate, menthol, plant-derived Vitamin E, organic lavender and CO2-extracted arnica concentrate.
The company was created as an "anti-Walmart" model to empower independent growers who meet product quality standards.
Now available in six states, Nelson says business is "fairly lucrative," though they had to navigate red tape that comes with selling a product still federally prohibited, albeit legal in every state where it is sold.
Dubbed "CTO: chief tasting officer" of the company, Nelson has 65 years of experience with the product but is not a weed snob.
He doesn't have a favorite strain of Willie's Reserve.
Elizabeth Hogan, company VP, says his most common thoughts on subject are "I claim them all" or "Pot's like sex - it's all good, some is great."
Wille is vocal about the war on drugs and people imprisoned for marijuana possession.
Rolling Stone revealed 40% of drug arrests are due to pot, and black people are four times more likely to get arrested for pot than their white counterparts.
Nelson has been busted several times but none of his arrests caused jail time.
"A lot of it is because people get in there who don't even have the bail money to get out," he says.
"Let those guys out and start working and paying taxes."
Nelson believes marijuana should be legalized in all 50 states and is active in politics to achieve that.
Willie combines golf and jogging with his herb superb diet.
In 1981 I waited with the Christchurch mayor in the lobby of Willie's hotel as Willie had a pre-jog joint to prepare for their photo shoot.
WILLIE PEERS THROUGH IMMIGRANT EYES
“Oh, Ellis Island was swarming/ like a scene from a costume ball/ decked out in the colors of Europe/ and on fire with the hope of it all/ there my father's own father stood huddled/ with the tired and hungry and scared/ turn of the century pilgrims/ bound by the dream that they shared/ they were standing in line just like cattle/ poked and sorted and shoved/ some were one desk away from sweet freedom/ some were torn from someone they love/ through this sprawling Tower of Babel.” - Immigrant Eyes - Guy Clark- Roger Murrah.
Youngest daughter Amy Lee, 46, and Arlo Guthrie's daughter Cathy - members of Austin duo Folk Uke who toured here several times - directed the video.
Willie speaks words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty as the video opens: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”
When Willie first played the song for her a few months ago, “I was like, ‘Dad, you've got to do a video for this one, because it totally reflects the times that we're in right now,'” Amy recalled.
“He said, ‘Why don't you do it?'”
She wove various sources of film for the video, including shots of her dad singing and playing guitar, historical clips from the Library of Congress and footage from rallies she attended at Texas Capitol last year and a South Texas detention centre in 2015.
That demonstration, fronted by Texas Grassroots Leadership, called for shutdown of the largest immigration detention centre in the nation.
“I felt that was as sad as it could get. I had no idea where we were headed,” Amy says.
Willie pays homage to fellow Texan Clark, who died at 74 on May 16, 2017, with sensitive treatment of Clark-Gordie Sampson song My Favourite Picture Of You - title track of Clark 's final album in 2013.
He performed it live in June on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Although Guy only played Willie's July 4 Picnic once, in 1974, he was at the 1972 Dripping Springs Reunion that inspired the annual music picnics.
At the 2019 picnic Clark's songs were resurrected by Steve Earle, whose latest album, Guy is a tribute to Clark .
A decade ago, Earle released a similar tribute to Townes Van Zandt.
Clark and Van Zandt were close friends and befriended Earle from early in his career.
SEVEN YEAR ITCH
“I had the seven-year itch, scratched it out in three/ well, you may say how/ but you don't know me/ I've taken my licks and I'm paying my fee/ I had the seven year itch, scratched it out in three.” - Seven Year Itch - Willie Nelson-Buddy Cannon
Willie's prolific procreation and parenting makes him perfect purveyor of Seven Year Itch - one of two new songs written with long time producer Buddy Cannon.
The father of seven children from his four marriages is no stranger to scratching his itch.
Sadly, first son Willie Hugh (Billy) Nelson Jr, who joined him on his 1981 debut Australian tour, committed suicide at the age of 33 in Ridgetop, Tennessee, in 1991.
Eldest daughter Lana, now 65, was once married to fellow Texan country singer Johnny Rodriguez and is an actress and costume designer for Red Headed Stranger (1986), The King of Luck (2011) and Lovey: King of the Roadies.
She also wrote the book April Fools and runs Nelson family web page Still Is Still Moving - named after one of his many songs.
Second daughter Susie, 63, wrote 1987 book Heart Worn Memories about Willie.
Third daughter Paula, now 49, has recorded solo albums and charted this month with Willie on their duet Have You Seen The Rain.
Younger sons Lukas, 30, and Micah, 29, perform on Willie's albums and videos while Lukas has released five albums with Promise Of The Real and completed his latest Australian tour in April.
Lukas and Micah also followed family tradition by appearing in several movies before and after Australian tours.
This time they join Willie on his revamp of Lubbock born singing actor Mac Davis 1980 hit It's Hard To Be Humble.
Davis , 77, released 19 studio albums and appeared in 20 movies including his role as Reverend Parker in the Willie-Toby Keith 2008 comedy Beer For My Horses and Cheaper To Keep Her and the Dukes Of Hazzard.
Willie's grand-daughter Raelyn, 34, has kept the tradition alive and kicking with her band - a regular fixture at his festivals and way beyond.
TIME JOGS FOR WILLIE
“Time is my friend, my friend/ the more I reject it, the more that it kicks in/ just enough to keep me on my toes/ I say, come on time, I've beat you before/ come on time, what have you got for me this time?/ I'll take your words of wisdom and I'll try to make them rhyme/ hey, it's just me and you again, come on time.” - Come On Time - Willie Nelson-Buddy Cannon.
Willie follows his title track with rollicking eternity anthem Come On Time - a new tune penned with Cannon.
The singer updates the theme of the Time Marches On predecessor - penned by Florida born Bobby Braddock, 78, and a 1996 album track and #1 hit for fellow Texan Tracy Lawrence, now 51.
Cannon and daughter Melonie add backing vocals on a disc including his revival of Billy Joel's 1977 hit Just The Way You Are.
More reflective and laconic is his sole solo composition Stay Away From Lonely Places.
He urges listeners to “stay away from lonely places/ just follow the crowd/ and stay around familiar faces/ play the music loud/ be seen at all the parties/ and dress yourself with style/ and stay away from lonely places for a while/ stay away from lonely places/ till you learn to live alone.”
Equally evocative is confessional Nobody's Listening , written by his late bassist Dan “Bee” Spears and Skip Dennenberg.
The song begins as a husband tells his wife he lost his second-generation family home built by his father after losing his life-time job.
There's also nobody listening as warnings about killer storms and floods in the Gulf Of Mexico and New Orleans are not heeded despite mass media briefings.
The frustrated singer resorts to writing and singing as it “seems like no-one's plugged into the sounds of desperation.”
It's a sibling of Buzz Rabin penned finale Maybe I Should Have Been Listening as Willie portrays a ruptured romance that could have been avoided if a sonic conduit had been activated and prevented a recurring and painful memory.
ONE MORE SONG TO WRITE
“I got one more song to write/ and I've got one more bridge to burn/ I've got one more endless night/ one more lesson to be learned/ one more hill to climb/ and it's somewhere in my mind/ I'll know it when it's right/ I've got one more song to write.” - One More Song To Write - Willie Nelson-Buddy Cannon
Willie's evocative mortality tune One More Song To Write reflects acting in 30 movies and telemovies that began with The Electric Horseman in 1979, Honeysuckle Rose in 1980, Thief in 1981 and Barbarosa and Coming Out Of Ice in 1982.
They included Songwriter, The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James, Stagecoach, Once Upon a Texas Train, Where the Hell's That Gold, Starlight, Gone Fishin' Wag The Dog, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Nash Bridges and Broken Bridges.
Another that almost didn't happen was the film based on his 1975 concept album Red Headed Stranger.
The movie was released 11 years later after a rocky birth.
Starring Willie, Morgan Fairchild, and Katharine Ross, it was meant to be a big $15 million production with Robert Redford as the main character.
But Redford stalled on agreeing to his role for years and caused financiers to get cold feet.
"He chickened out," Willie explained of the movie that also featured late band mate Spears and long-time drummer Paul English.
So, writer-director William D Wittliff and Nelson struck out on their own with $1.8 million in fundraising.
After much delay the meagre budget movie Red Headed Stranger was born with no major distribution and fanfare.
Slim finances made it a family affair.
Daughter Lana designed all costumes and his grandson Bryan Fowler took the leading child role.
Lana said: "Willie's the hardest-working guy on the project. He puts in the most hours, the most worry, the most energy, so everybody else has just got to do it too."
Wittliff, who also wrote the Willie western movie Barbarosa , died on June 9 this year and was honoured with a screening at Willie's movie town Luck.
But, like his singing, songwriting and acting, Willie is ready not quit.
Instead he prefers to reflect the name of his movie town Luck.
"I never looked at myself as an actor - I'd react a lot," Willie explained.
“I grew up singing with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and all those guys. I felt like I was a singing cowboy before I could sing or ride a horse but I acted like I could. Acting is a whole lot easier than golf."
Willie show no signs of slowing down.
His recent 46 th July 4 picnic in Austin featured Willie & Family, Luke Combs, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats , Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, Steve Earle & The Dukes , Colter Wall, Hayes Carll, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Gene Watson, Billy Joe Shaver, Johnny Bush, David Allan Coe, Folk Uke , Raelyn Nelson Band and the Casey Kristofferson Band.
Willie's Remedy also sponsors the Outlaw Music Festival Tour that begins in September and features Robert Plant & Sensational Space Shifters , Luke Combs, Bonnie Raitt, Avett Brothers, Nathaniel Rateliff & Night Sweats , Alison Krauss, Gov't Mule , Brothers Osborne, and Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real .
Willie headlines the 17-city tour and Las Vegas residency at the Venetian Theatre for the Vegas On My Mind show.
The residency starts October 18 with shows on October 19, 22, 23, 25 and 26 and follows his Vegas season in February, 2017.