There is good music, and then there’s music by an elite group of artists, one of those being Willie Nelson. Born in 1933 in Abbott, Texas, Nelson is far and away one of the most important songwriters and recording artists of the past 100 years. He could have stopped after writing “Crazy” in the early 1960s, or after he participated in a little group called The Highwaymen, or after releasing 2002’s The Great Divide (don’t miss “You Remain” – my goodness). And, it’s obviously impossible to separate these 3 events, or any other in Nelson’s career, but you get the point.
But Nelson wrote (mostly), recorded and against his label’s (at the time) better judgement, released 1975’s Red Headed Stranger, a concept album about a guy on the run from the law after killing his wife. A very sparse, simple and beautiful project, it is Nelson at his finest.
The album went on to multi-platinum status and to help define the Outlaw movement in Country music, arguably saving the artistic integrity of a town called Nashville.
From his book Country Music: The Rough Guide, Kurt Wolff shares:
“Along with his pal Waylon Jennings, Willie had by that point [the mid 1970s] become a leading figure in the so-called Outlaw movement, which was, at least in the beginning, about artists regaining creative control of their music in the studio. Willie fully achieved that control on Red Headed Stranger, which is exactly what makes it such a powerful record.”