When Willie Nelson hosts his annual Fourth of July Picnic this year at Billy Bob's Texas in Forth Worth you can bet that the fireworks will be even bigger and brighter celebrating the news about his new album, "Band of Brothers." As of this week, the album is now the number one Top Country Album with 37,000 sold in less than ten days, according to Nielsen SoundScan. This is Willie Nelson’s 12th number one album. The 81-year-old Willie is the only artist known at his age to hold the number one title of Top Country album in the nation. Willie's official website gives the high-five with his statement, "Thank you! ‘Band of Brothers’ #5 on Billboard 200 and #1 on Nation’s Country Album Charts!"
The album is a glorious gift of song woven of Willie’s many moods and moments. With comfortable yet refreshingly new material, it definitely covers all that is our Willie Nelson. The title track, “Band of Brothers,” could not be a more beautiful display of Willie Nelson, the man. The lyrics on this track, tell it all. "We're a band of brothers and sisters and whatever/on a mission to break all the rules." The songs on this album are testament to his passion, emotion, defiance against injustice and a loyal sense of brotherhood. He is the ultimate outlaw and a beloved figure throughout many generations of fans and artists.
In "Band of Brothers", Willie wrote nine of the 14 songs on "Band of Brothers" with songwriter and album producer, Buddy Cannon. This album is the first of mostly new material that Willie has penned himself since 1996's "Spirit." The album also marks the American music icon's first release in years to feature primarily his original material. He’s recorded songs by Vince Gill, Billy Joe Shaver, Billy Burnette and others for "Band of Brothers." According to Willie, the ones you have to write are usually the ones that become the best songs.
In an interview with Billboard Magazine, Willie says, "He (Cannon) produced the album, but he's also a great writer and we're good together." He continues, “We had a sort of formula that worked. I'd come up with an idea I'd send him, just me and the guitar, just one take on it, and he would take that into the studio and hire musicians and cut the whole track from that, then I'd go back and put my vocal on it. So it was an easy album to cut, really."
"Band of Brothers" opens with Willie defying the storms in life with a "I've been through this before, so..." attitude in "Bring It On." "Guitar in the Corner" is a song that seems to come so easily yet from the deepest recesses of Willie’s heart. "The Wall" sings of the low places in "a pretty rough year" in his life. Last year, overbooking and the toll of fast and furious tours, Willie also had shoulder problems which led to orthoscopic surgery and a four or five day process in Germany to somewhat fix the problem or at least relieve the pain. The prolific artist Nelson was on the road with Alison Krauss and Union Station. But, as reported "April 22, 2014 “Due to an unforeseen and urgent health concern that requires immediate attention, we have been forced to reschedule and unfortunately cancel a few select shows on the upcoming tour with Willie Nelson. It was a bad year. But as a phoenix from the ashes, Willie Nelson has risen for this album and more soon to come.
On a retake of "Whenever You Come Around," Willie brings a new sad, matter-of-factness to give the song a bittersweet rememberance of an old flame. "I Thought I Left You" hits a bulls-eye on the heart of those of us who think we have left the past behind...but, then those old memories still resurrect themselves when we aren't ready. "Send Me A Picture" is pure Willie Nelson, admitting only to himself, the pain. "I'm Used to Her," captures the unsettled, restless feeling within a comfortable relationship and the realization of non-commitment when things are just "too good."
These songs personify Willie Nelson's tempered but defiant moments, his humor and philosophical personality, wistful songs in a tribute to then and now, the truth of life’s loves and loyalty and the scars of regret perhaps now, a little less painful. Memories throughout his years surface as Willie sings "Wives and Girlfriends" with a fun upbeat no reservations in comparing the two, "but may they never meet/May they never know each other when they pass on the street." Definitely, this is a guy song. Two Billy Joe Shaver covers on the album feature Jamey Johnson and Willie in "The Git Go." Midway through album, the song, "It's Hard to Be an Outlaw," is an anthem for those of us who love pure Country music can relate to. When Willie sings abut how they spin "songs about the backroads where they never have been down," it's perfect example of why Willie Nelson is always capturing our hearts and minds for so many years. He lives the truth and standards of real country music, the life, loves, and laughs, challenges the battles, embraces the joys and he remains steadfast in his music and loyalty to his fans.
I dare you to not dance to "Crazy like Me." This is the country swing that our Willie Nelson uniquely brings to fans to get moving and enjoying the life we know and live. The song is one that drags you up from your chair like the moth to the Willie Nelson flame. There is no denying that we fans are just that and love it.
But if you think, this is all Willie Nelson has in store for us, think again. At 81, Willie has even more new music in store for us. Besides the new album, “Band of Brothers," Willie Nelson will release another originals-heavy album this fall, "December Day," recorded with his regular band. The eight or nine originals planned include an eclectic mixture of music, memories and time. Classics that Willie and his band have been playing for years, such as "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," "Back To Earth" and a version of Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band" are included. If the "Band of Brothers" is any clue to the versatility of Willie Nelson, we are in for another exciting treasure.
Willie’s unique vocals and songwriting will always be relevant today. Because, through his songs, Willie Nelson inspires us, sings our lives and shows us the way. To be able to turn on the radio and instantly know that singer’s name is of what other artists can only dream. This world-known recognition illustrates the magic and allure of Willie Nelson.
The album, “Band of Brothers” is even further proof that no matter what Willie’s age, he will always keep us addicted to his realm of mastery in music. He delivers fresh new twists on older songs while also infusing genius and energetic electricity into his new material. That’s why his album hit the coveted number one Top Country Music Album on Billboard’s Country Chart and Nielsen’s SoundScan.
Waylon Jennings once said that the word "outlaw" was overused. But, outlaw simply means breaking the laws set by authority. However, the Country Music authority is in love with "breaking the rules, "outside of the lines" and "stretching the boundaries" as Willie has. This album personifies the true spirit of traditonal country music combined with change. It's something that Willie Nelson stands for today and we love every bit of the new offerings from Willie. He never ceases to amaze and capture us with his songs and new material.
With any great outlaw, all one needs is a fresh horse to continue on his journey. In addition, for Willie Nelson there are plenty of fresh horses left to ride, more senoritas to serenade and even more treasures in his bag. “Band of Brothers” with its vibrant new material and songs will prove to be just as ageless as the iconic Willie Nelson.
A bit of Willie Nelson trivia: The singer whose birthday is Monday or Tuesday – Nelson says April 29, the state of Texas claims April 30 – occupies a unique space in America's cultural memory. My birthday is celebrated on August 23, yet the State of Texas has it as August 22. I wonder if Willie was as surprised as I when we found out? He too, must have been born at midnight.