At the top or very close to it? Ram Country's recent jaunt to New Haven, Ct., where with full crew and a strange sense of the surreal, we boarded the tour bus of no less a legendary figure than Willie Nelson.
Nelson--only one of a handful of working musicians whose name and image is recognizable to inhabitants of virtually every continent on the planet--was outside New Haven's Shubert Theater, where in a few brief hours he'd be doing what he does best--singing and playing in front of an audience that clearly loved the man, the music, and all he represents.
And what Willie Nelson represents is the finest in American music tradition: An outstanding songwriter--the man wrote "Crazy," "Funny How Time Slips Away" and "Hello Walls," among many other standards--a world-class singer, a poet, a movie actor, one hell of a guitar player, and a man who oozes class and living legend with his every breath.
And he could not be more amiable--or unpretentious.
Of late Nelson is on the road again to promote a new album--the recently released Heroes disc, featuring guest appearances by Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Ray Price, Jamey Johnson, Sheryl Crow, Billy Joe Shaver, Snoop Dogg, and his sons Lukas and Micah--as well as a new record company affiliation that is no small matter. Nelson has struck a deal with Sony Music's Legacy imprint, which reunites him with most of the distinguished catalog he's created over the years with the RCA and Columbia labels, and sets the stage for an upcoming series of archival releases that will contextualize his legacy in unprecedented fashion.
With a video crew crowding his colorful and now-cramped tour bus, Nelson spoke to Ram Country and gave us full details of his new record deal, his current tour, his take on the modern-day music business, and, most interestingly, what it's like being Willie Nelson this far into the 21st Century.
And shortly thereafter, he and his marvelous band gave a performance in Shubert Theatre that elicited whoops of approval from the audience--not to mention shrieks from more than a few female fans--and made the jaws drops of those musicians in the audience who could fully comprehend the musicianship on display onstage that night.
Check out what the distinguished Mr. Nelson told Ram Country below--and then, even better, take a peek at the what the audience witnessed in person only a few hours later.