2015 CD REVIEW
WILLIE NELSON AND SISTER BOBBIE
DECEMBER DAY - WILLIE'S STASH VOL. 1 (LEGACY-SONY)
SHOTGUN WILLIE & SISTER BOBBIE REACH BACK TO ABBOTT
“And don't doubt mine love if sometimes my mind should wonder/ to a suddenly remembered yesterday/ but my mind could never stay too long away from you/ and I'll always love you in my own peculiar way.” - My Own Peculiar Way - Willie Nelson
“We learned a little about everything in Abbott. There was no laws up there, so we could pretty well do what we wanted to do, as long as we lived through it, and fortunately we did.”
The pair share the screen with shots of fields and churches, as well as old photos from their upbringing.
“Some of my, really, earliest memories, besides walking through the field, would be us learning music, our grandparents showing us music,” Bobbie Nelson recalled.
“Our grandfather was very much into gospel music - our grandmother, too - and I was trying to learn to play the pump organ. I remember Daddy Nelson showing Willie how to play the guitar, and he taught him how to sing so that when he'd go to school, he could sing for the kids.”
NOT PERMANENTLY LONELY ALWAYS
“Don't be concerned 'cause it's time I learned/ that those who play with fire get burned/ but I'll be alright in a little while/ but you'll be permanently lonely.” - Permanently Lonely - Willie Nelson.
The siblings have been playing together since they were kids, starting with performances at church revival meetings.
Their video is full of humour and tenderness that translates into good chemistry on stages - especially on their Australian tours dating back to 1981.
“There's nothing like playing music with Willie. I get an energy from just sitting with me at the piano, but when I sit with Willie, it's just an all-new energy,” Bobbie says of sharing the stage with her brother.
“When we put that all together, you can really feel it.”
Willie expands on that theme.
“We play together, I think, as well as anybody,” Willie explained.
“When it's just her and I, it's a lot of fun to play. It's nice to know that sister Bobbie is over there because whenever I need someone to take the lead, all I have to do is nod to sister Bobbie, and she's already there. She knows what to do and gives me a chance to relax a little bit and figure out what I'm going to do next.”
As brother and sister growing up in Abbott, Willie and Bobbie learned to read music and play instruments as pre-teens under the tutelage of their grandparents, who raised them.
They played together in Texas bands early in their careers and Bobbie has been an essential member of Willie's Family Band since its official formation in 1973.
Willie and Bobbie's deeply intuitive musical bond, formed and developed through decades of practice and spontaneity, laces the fruit on the December Day tree.
FROM ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND TO THE IRS TAPES
"A past that's sprinkled with the blues / a few old dreams that I can't use/ who'll buy my memories of things that used to be/ there were the smiles before the tears and with the smiles some better years/ who'll buy my memories of things that used to be/ when I remember how things were my memories all leave with her/ I'd like to start my life anew but memories just make me blue/ a cottage small just built for two a garden wall with violets blue/ who'll buy my memories of things that used to be.” - Who'll Buy My Memories? - Willie Nelson.
So what about the music?
The album is a mix of re-recorded greatest hits, deep cuts, covers and new originals.
The 18 song project was borne from a string of casual jam sessions aboard the country legend's tour bus, the biodiesel-fueled Honeysuckle Rose .
It was there that Willie and Bobbie - armed with trusty guitar Trigger, a travel-size keyboard and a musical chemistry that dates back to the siblings' childhood days in Abbott - have a long history of regrouping after shows to play their favorite songs.
But it's the plaintive 1972 narrative Who'll Buy My Memories that resonates with good reason.
When federal agents raided Willie's Texas home on November 9, 1990, they weren't looking for drugs.
Instead, the feds seized most of Nelson's worldly possessions - including his recording studio, instruments, memorabilia and more than 20 properties in four different states - to help pay off the whopping $16.7 million he'd racked up in back taxes and penalties.
In a touching display of support many Nelson's fans purchased those belongings and then donated them back to Willie.
The only thing the IRS didn't get was Trigger - Nelson's favorite guitar that had been spirited away from the home several days earlier by his daughter, Lana.
Nelson wound up using Trigger - and little else - to record next album, The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories ?
The acoustic collection of new songs and standards was released in 1992 and the profits went straight to the IRS and helped Nelson finally dig himself out of debt.
More than two decades later he's still playing Trigger - a Martin N-20 classical guitar that's as weathered and mellow-sounding as its owner - as well as Who'll Buy My Memories ?
It reappears on December Day released on December 5, 2014.
Willie sings wistfully, punctuating lines with jazzy, out-of-time runs on Trigger's beat-up fretboard.
Bobbie accompanies him on grand piano, and the pair's performance is intercut in the video with grainy footage of their hometown, including churches, crops, the Abbott water tower and endless expanses of blue Texas sky.
Today, with Willie nearing 82, the song is a poignant reminder that everyone - even one of the country music's most enduring icons - is mortal.
SAD SONGS AND WALTZES
“I'm writing a song all about you/ a true song as real as my tears/ but you've no need to fear it 'cause no one will hear it/ 'Cause sad songs and waltzes aren't selling this year.” - Sad Songs And Waltzes - Willie Nelson.
"As long as I can remember, Willie and Bobbie, who ride together on Willie's bus, spend some of their travelling time jamming on their favourite songs,” Raphael writes.
"Bobbie has a travel size keyboard on the bus and Willie's guitar, Trigger is always by his side. This is where the idea for December Day was born.
‘Why not record our favourite songs like we play them for ourselves?' Bobbie asked”.
Mickey wrote "When it comes to a brother-sister collaboration with the longevity of Willie and Bobbie, there is beauty in keeping things simple. Less is more is the underlying theme. We've heard these songs before but not like this. The spontaneity born out of familiarity is what this record, December Day is all about. It's not rocket science, it's alchemy."
Nelson is focused less on sticking it to the taxman and more on highlighting the things that never really die: family bonds, memories and the music that glues them all together.
AMNESIA - IS THE BETTER PART OVER
“Is the better part over?/ has a ragin' river turned into a stream?/ is the better part over?/ are we down to not quite sayin' what we mean?/ and after thinkin' it over/ wouldn't you rather have the endin' nice and clean/ where love remains in all the closing scenes?' If the better part's over.” - Is The Better Part Over - Willie Nelson.
December Day is produced by Buddy Cannon and recorded by Steve Chadie at Willie's Pedernales Recordings Studio in Austin .
Musicians include Willie (Trigger), Bobbie (piano, B-3 organ), Raphael (harmonica), Kevin Smith (bass), Spears (bass), Billy English (drums, percussion) and David Zettner (acoustic guitar).
Meanwhile Willie's sons Lukas and Micah appear on Willie's Farm Aid partner Neil Young's new album The Monsanto Years.
“I'm working on another album now. I'm doing with Willie Nelson‘s sons,” Young revealed recently.
It's not the first time the Canadian born star has worked with Lukas and Micah.
They joined him at Farm Aid, Harvest the Hope Concert and the Bridge School Benefit .
Lukas and Micah inherited their dad's love of music.
Lukas heads Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and Micah is part of Insects vs. Robots.
“We grew up surrounded by music so there's environmental factor too,” Lukas Nelson explained.
“My mother used to show me her music - the stuff she grew up on. That's where I got the rock 'n' roll side. Dad showed me everything from country to Django Reinhardt. It has to do with what you are exposed to at a young age.”
Adds Willie “I think it's definitely in the DNA. I do believe there is power in the blood.”
WILLIE NELSON AND SISTER BOBBIE DECEMBER DAY: WILLIE'S STASH VOL. 1
1. Alexander's Ragtime Band (Irving Berlin)
2. Permanently Lonely (Willie Nelson)
3. What'll I Do (Irving Berlin)
4. Summer of Roses / December Day (Willie Nelson)
5. Nuages (Django Reinhardt)
6. Mona Lisa (Ray Evans & Jay Livingston)
7. I Don't Know Where I Am Today (Willie Nelson)
8. Amnesia (Willie Nelson)
9. Who'll Buy My Memories (Willie Nelson)
10. The Anniversary Song (Al Jolson & Saul Chaplin)
11. Laws of Nature (Willie Nelson)
12. Walkin' (Willie Nelson)
13. Always (Irving Berlin)
14. I Let My Mind Wander (Willie Nelson)
15. Is the Better Part Over (Willie Nelson)
16. My Own Peculiar Way (Willie Nelson)
17. Sad Songs and Waltzes (Willie Nelson)
18. Ou-es tu, mon amour (Emile Stern & Henri LeMarchand) / I Never Cared for You (Willie Nelson)