Sunday, May 11, 2008
I was so thrilled late last month when I got my Texas Monthly in the mail. (After years of making a ritual of picking it up in airports on the way home, I decided to finally get a subscription.) This month's cover story celebrates Willie Nelson's 75th birthday. While I'm not the Willie zealot that some of my cousins are, I do like the man and the portrait on the cover is just beautiful. So, I decided to let that guide me for today's superhappyfuntime mixtape. I considered doing an all-Willie mix, but then decided I should do a regional exploration series - as inspired by last week's Cinco de Mayo, Mexican theme - so this is about half Willie and half random Texas artists. I do recommend Twisted Willie, a fun tribute album from my college years. Good times.
1. On the Road Again - Willie Nelson. My dad used to always sing this whenever we'd travel the next town over to visit family. Or when we'd be off to New Mexico for a camping trip. Or whenever we'd be driving home from a school function or ... anytime we were in a car. I never paid attention to the fact that it was about touring with a band. I thought it was in praise of the great American road trip.
2. Running Away - The Polyphonic Spree. I've always enjoyed them. Last fall I had the pleasure of seeing them live and it was probably in the top 3 most moving live art performances I'd ever seen. Possibly in the top 3 most spiritually satisfying moments of my life - right behind the crazy psychic connection I had with the color yellow for a fleeting moment in 1995. I think I want to be one of their choir-girls when I grow up.
3. My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys - Willie Nelson. Okay, there is no veracity in that sentiment for me. My heroes have always been people who spoke/speak truth to power. Not that that can't be a cowboy, just that I haven't idolized any particular industry laborer. However, this is another song I remember hearing around the house a lot as a child, much to the chagrin of my mother (see #5).
4. Rave On - Buddy Holly. I think I'm appreciating Buddy Holly more as I get older. Sure, he's the pride of Lubbock and we West Texans are happy to claim him, as well as Roy Orbison, but he's always just been the guy who died when the music did. But lately I think I can hear his influence in music more - "oh yeah, you do have your uncle's stubborn chin," as it were.
5. Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground - Willie Nelson. Not one I'm super familiar with, but what a great heartbreaker about a doomed love.
6. Sundress - Ben Kweller. I first heard this guy on Studio 360 on NPR. I was irritated that the host kept calling him Kweller. Since he talked about being from Texas, I assumed his name was Spanish: "Cuellar [kweh-yar], you idiot!" I yelled at my car radio. I - ahem - was wrong. In any event, I dig him. And the chorus of this makes me dance like Tracy Morgan.
7. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain - Willie Nelson. This was apparently written by the same guy who wrote "Back in the Saddle Again." It's on "Redheaded Stranger," which Dad played relentlessly when I was a tot. It's so tender and mournful.
8. Private Conversation - Lyle Lovett. Okay. I grabbed this one because I couldn't find a good version of "If I had a Boat" or "She's no Lady." But this ain't bad. I actually met Lyle Lovett at an event last year. Very kind and polite.
9. The House is a Rockin' - Stevie Ray Vaughan. I dare you not to grab a bottle of beer, a nearby warm body and cut loose to this. This just fuckin' swings. God rest you, SRV.
10. Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys - Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings.
Just another Dad would sing and play around the house in my youth. It would drive Mom crazy. "If Willie Nelson can sing, then I'm the queen of England!" she'd spout. She still spouts it. This is for you, Mom.
11. Attesa - Balmorhea. (Not sure this one is working.) This is an artist I want to explore more. Sounds like mostly piano-driven mood music, but I'm largely curious about them because they're from (surprise, surprise) Balmorhea, TX, near where I wasted my youth.
12. Rainbow Connection - Willie Nelson. I've heard a handful of versions of this song before, but this is my favorite. Its sad earnestness reminds me of that of Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt." It sounds like a completely different song than the original in his mouth.