Willie Nelson, along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, founded farm Aid in 1985 when American farmers were in the midst of a mortgage crisis that was forcing many small farmers to leave their land. Through the concert, modeled on the Live Aid event that took place earlier that year, the performers hoped to raise money and awareness to help those farmers along. The event was a huge success, and turned into a tradition that has lasted for over three decades, with a large concert held at a different location each year.
SOUNDS LIKE: Outlaw. Plain and simple.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: Willie turns 80 today, and the late, great George Jones put it - “There’ll never be another red-headed stranger.”
“You can’t make a record if you ain’t got nothing to say” – Willie Nelson, “Shotgun Willie”
Country music can be broken down into five or six different and distinct generations. The actual country elements of country – that is, the Western/cowboy sound that founded the genre to begin with, were mostly phased out by the mid-60s. In the early 70s a new breed of country music was born, frequently labeled “outlaw country.” Born as a reaction to the “Nashville sound,” which many new country artists perceived as the selling-out of country music (Chet Atkins, when asked what the Nashville sound was, would famously shake the loose change in his pocket and say “it’s the sound of money”), outlaw country sought a return to independence and the grungy, dirty origins of the music. It didn’t hurt that several of its best known practitioners, such as David Allen Coe, were at least rumored to have frequent run-ins with the law.
Outlaw country’s best known faces quickly became two Texans, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Jennings’ album Ladies Love Outlaws – which featured a picture of Jennings dressed as a Western Sherriff on the cover – jumpstarted the genre’s popularity. It was Nelson, however, that became its enduring star.
Willie Nelson doesn’t need an introduction. Just the mention of the name conjures up images of cowboys, whiskey, red headed strangers and yes, the pot. To say the man is a living legend would be a gross understatement. Nelson is a burning star in a world where many of those lights are going dim. He’s one of the few people left who you can point to and say “That man, right there. HE is one of the reasons modern music is what it is today.” There are heavyweights in the music world and then there are the collusi: Dylan, Cash, Bowie, Wonder, Springsteen, Charles, Jones, Davis, Presley, McCartney, Lennon – the list goes on but not for too much longer. These were the rebels, the trailblazers, the outlaws, and no such list could possibly be complete without Willie Nelson’s naming sitting right up there near the top.
Phosphorescent is playing The Red Palace in DC tonight and you should be too. The brain child of Brooklyn transplant Matthew Houck Phosphorescent is a rotating cast of musicians that come together to bring you some of the best alt-country style rock going today.
Why is he playing a place this small? We have no idea. Especially after the awesomeness of his second album for the Dead Oceans label, To Willie, which is nothing but Willie Nelson covers done right. Like I said, we don't know why he's playing a place as small as The Red Palace (although maybe it's because it is one of the best rooms in DC) but we'll take it!
If need convincing or just have never heard of the band, check out the opening track of their excellent album Here's To Taking It Easy and let the music do the talking.
At $12 a ticket, how could you possibly go wrong.
"It's Hard To Be Humble (When You're From Alabama)