Friday, May 2, 2008

Number 3 Red Headed Stranger

Number 3 Red Headed Stranger
Artist: Willie Nelson
Released: 1975

Track Listing

Time of the Preacher
I Couldn't Believe It Was True
Time of the Preacher (Theme)
Medley: Blue Rock Montana/Red Headed Stranger
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain
Red Headed Stranger
Time of the Preacher (Theme)
Just as I Am
O'er The Waves
Down Yonder
Can I Sleep In Your Arms?
Remember Me
Hands On The Wheel

"It was a time of the preacher
In the year of 01'
Just when you think it's all over
It's only begun"

My earliest recollection of recorded music is this album. It was/is my Dad's favorite, hell my Mom too for that matter. If I had a dollar for every time Red Headed Stranger was played on a Friday or Saturday night in the O'Dell house growing up I'd be a rich man. About 3,000 Albums later my world has come full circle and finds Red Headed Stranger as my #3 all time album.

Red Headed Stranger is the concept album to end all concept albums. It's Americana, it's a damn good western, its revenge and redemption, it's the frailty of man, its 100% Willie Nelson. Emmylou Harris said that if America had one voice it would be Willie Nelson. Damn right! After 9/11 there was this fund raiser where major performers (Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Alicia Keys etc..) played to raise money for the families of the victims. At the end Willie Nelson led everyone in America The Beautiful and it was perfectly appropriate. No one else could have done it, it wouldn't have been right

Red Headed Stranger is my favorite album to hear sung. Willie's vocals come through so clearly the sound is audible tonic. Words such as sparse, and quiet have been used to describe the accompanying music, truth be told any other arrangement would have gotten in the way of THAT VOICE. There are a lot of albums I know every word to; with Red Headed Stranger I know every note. I can listen to it without even putting it on! This album has an unfair advantage in that it is really like two.

Part one is the narrative of the Red Headed Stranger, a preacher that discovers his woman has chosen the love of another man, a distinct story line.

Love is like a dying ember
And only memories remain

They smiled at each other as he walked through the door
And they died with a smile on their faces

Part two is a broader stroke that symbolizes hope and redemption.

My hands on the wheel of something that's real
And I feel like I'm going home

They work together and separately, really cool thing.

Red Headed Stranger is classic in every since of the word, it feels antique, it should be discovered in your granddaddy's attic in that old walnut chest, dusted off reverentially and put on the old turntable covered in cobwebs beside it. Some albums are right for the time, this album is right for all time. Makes me want to have a son so I can have a workweek kick my ass open a cold beer lay back in my chair and put on Willie. My son will be coming home from a night out with that girl Tracy doesn't like and he'll hear the music coming from the den.

Don't cross him, don't boss him, he's wild in his sorrow
He's riding and hiding his pain
Don't fight him, don't spite him just wait till tomorrow
And maybe he'll ride on again.

My son will smile and slip back to his room knowing that in our little family universe everything is how it should be. Amen

Post note There is a classic performance from Austin City Limits where Willie performs Red Headed Stranger in its entirety. I have given a pretty damn good effort in hunting a copy of it down but have had no luck. If anyone wants to earn a permanent place in my heart find a copy and get it for me.

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