Written By: Jeff Markunas
We’re on the road again for the last trip down the lost highway. Willie Nelson and his label are parting ways- any News here?
Perhaps not, as it’s happened thousands of times before with the “Red-Headed Stranger.”
Still… Buzz,Buzz there’s this annoying Buzz. Proving to be “bi-polar” on “Ain’t Goin’ Down On Brokeback Mountain” and “Cowboys Are Secretly Fond Of Each Other,” Willie is either an unabashed advocate for tolerance and Gay rights, or a red-neck Homophobe. Split personality or just covering all the bases?
Powering this dichotomy is “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other,“ a pro-gay song written by a straight songwriter and recorded by Willie back in the 80’s (never widely available until now). “Lost Highway” will mark the song’s debut for general release.
The flip (in all senses of the word) side is “Ain’t Going Down On Brokeback Mountain,“ which has been recorded by other bands tongue-in-cheek. Willie plays it straight (yes… I know). This might be due to the reported production of the tune by Kenny Chesney, who is apparently unaware of the subtexts found in either song. I’ve never been to Kenny’s house, but it seems that his closets might be big enough to live in.
As a songwriter, I reserve the right to tell you to go screw yourself, but politics and music are at best strange bedfellows (Sorry, I can’t help it!) Music review is my game, ask me twice, and I’ll tell you the same.
Anyone would be CRAZY not to appreciate Willie’s contributions to music; he’s the Sinatra of Country. No! He’s better. The Chairman never wrote his own material, or played funky guitar.
Listening to the tracks, it’s obvious that the red-head has gotten very gray. Willie doesn’t do much to “sell” these songs. Most of the new cuts (especially the Ballads) feature a competent, but un-inventive band, and display Willie at less than his prime.
And now the rest of the story…
Of course a living legend has lots friends, or at least sycophants. This album displays
some atypical hero worship, along with the usual fawning, and a meeting of equals.
Here’s a quick rundown in ascending order …
Lee Ann Womack has no trouble holding down the bottom (will the puns never cease?)
Quick! Name 3 other female singers that can sing with Willie, and not make it sound like they’re birthing a calf – (How about Shania Twain, Lucinda Williams and Diana Krall).
I’m going slightly out of order here, but… Shania – don’t do your Willie impression right in front of him. After he’s left would be more tasteful.
Lucinda – you’ve got the chops, but pump it up, darlin’, you’re there to sell Willie.
Diana – you’re silk, wrapped in a cloud, and totally beautiful. Willie can’t compete on that level any more, but then neither can Tony Bennett. Man up, Dudette!
To get back on track (second from the bottom) – Toby Keith – a sincere thank you for doing it RIGHT. Great vocal support and excellent production values. You really hit all the marks on this one. No wonder this was a hit – Willie owes you Dude.
Yes, Living Legends are friends with other Living Legends. Ray Price knows everything about delivering a superb vocal performance, even with the weight of several decades pressing down on his vocal cords.
Toby – take note – You will never even come close to being Ray Price.
That leaves Rob Thomas – What giant can’t he sing with? What genre can’t he absorb, master and excel in? He may be a modern giant in the making, but for right now let’s just say he’s Amazing.
Rock Bottom Line: Willie, I love you (please no songs) This is not your best album, but it does have its moments. Drive the bus by with Ray and Rob – I got the Lone Star’s, but please no ballads!!