Last time your contributing editor saw Willie Nelson it was with Arthur columnist Dave Reeves and we were at the Hollywood Bowl. Given that it was an audience full of KCRW-dads out to let their hair down, it wasn’t more than 15 minutes before the overweight yuppies were trying to buy pot from us, just based on the length of your contributing editor’s hair. They even plied us with non-medicinal brownies, but to no avail. Same yuppies were less enamored with us as we shouted and whooped along with “Beer For My Horses” and the other classics that Willie and family ran through in a pretty mechanical way.
One of the things your ed forgets about Willie’s three thousand albums or so is that very few of them are comprised of rowdy honky-tonkers: Most of the guy’s catalog is made up of very mellow and often heartbreakingly sad acoustic affairs full of songs that never make his live setlist, nevermind country radio. That’s pretty much what we’ve got here with these two overlooked gems from 1970: Both Sides Now and Laying My Burdens Down. This is pre-Outlaw Willie, though there are shades of things to come with “I Gotta Get Drunk,” an early version of “Bloody Mary Morning” and the gospel-tinged sounds that would come to full bloom in 1976 on his totally amazing Troublemaker album. Also plenty of tasteful covers; his revision of “Both Sides Now” ranks alongside Sinatra’s as among the sweeter covers of the Joni Mitchell classic.
Both come courtesy of Crooner’s Corner, a no-frills audioblog overseen by a wonderfully curmudgeonly collector of music by “male singers and musical entertainers of fame and legend.” Go check ’em out here.