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This upcoming June 15th would have been Waylon Jennings’ 75th birthday. The Littlefield, TX native died in 2002 from complications with diabetes, a disease he battled for years. Waylon fans have been celebrating Waylon’s birthday in informal “Waylon bashes” for years, from back porch picking sessions to full blown concert events in and around Waylon’s birthday. This year, The Waylon Fund, an extension of the TGen Foundation that is searching for a cure for diabetes is bringing a national focus to Waylon’s birthday bashes by organizing these various Waylon tributes into a national benefit.
From Nashville to New York, from Detroit to Seattle, fans will be getting together to raise funds for diabetes research and to pay tribute to one of country music’s biggest Outlaws. From Billy Don Burns to Shooter Jennings, from Rachel Brooke to Jackson Taylor, bands and artists will be giving of their time to help out a good cause.
“We have a built-in Waylon fan base here who are happy to support a progressive diabetes research fund in his name,” says Dana Armstrong the local organizer for the Waylon tribute scheduled for June 17 at the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe, AZ. “We have held Waylon tribute nights in the past, and if we can raise awareness and some funds for TGen in this way, I know we will have a good time doing it. Waylon’s music and pioneering spirit have always been influential to Valley Fever, and you’ll see that in a lot of the bands that play here…”
Support for The Waylon Fund from the 8 different tributes around the country happened organically. The idea started when one of Waylon’s relatives in his hometown in Littlefield contacted TGen to see if the birthday bash they were planning in nearby Whiteface, TX could go to benefit the foundation. Soon volunteers and organizers were popping up all over the country, ready and willing to help with the cause, including Muddy Roots that will be throwing the birthday bash in Nashville at Robert’s Western World, and the 3-day Honky Tonk Throwdown in Detroit.
And if you can’t make it to one of these benefits, you can do the next best best thing: put on a Waylon record and donate online.
Current List of Waylon Bashes benefiting The Waylon Fund:
Whiteface, Texas – June 16, 2012
The Rowdy Johnson Band
William Clark Green
Jackson Taylor and the Sinners
Sergio and the Outta Luck Band
- Billy Don Burns
- Chelsea Crowell
- Clark Patterson
- Rachel Brooke
- Bull Halsey
- The Orbitsuns
- The Howling Diablos
- Horse Cave Trio
- Paul Lamb and the Detroit Breakdown
- JJ and the BTs
- Crooked Little Reasons
- Alison Lewis
- Ryan Dillaha
- Afternoon Round
- Desolation Angel
- Pat V & The Detroit 3
- Matt Dmits
- Switchblade Justice
- Bixy Lutz
Tempe, Arizona – Valley Fever Country Music Night
Yucca Tap Room – June 17, 2012
Seattle, Washington – High Dive – June 15, 2012
The Outlaws (a Waylon tribute)
Jeff Fielder’s Redheaded Step Children
Plus special guests!
Houston, Texas – Firehouse Saloon – June 16, 2012
Nashville, Tennessee – Robert’s Western World
June 17, 2012 – 6-10 p.m.
The Silver Threads
Special guests to be announced
New York, New York – The Wayland – June 15, 2012
(More info coming soon!)
Crestview, Florida -Don’s Ice House
June 15-16, 2012
(more details coming)
When an artist rises to such other-worldly status as the one Willie Nelson enjoys, you’re never really sure when listening to a new album if there’s actually some real substance behind the new music, or if you’re simply so wooed by the legacy and mere sound of the man’s voice that he could sing a shopping list and you’d love it.
America experienced this sensation first hand during the Super Bowl this year when Willie’s signature warble showed up in a random Chipotle commercial. It was Coldplay’s song “The Scientist” Willie was singing? Who cares, it was Willie, and we get to relive that moment when that same song caps off his latest record, Heroes.
Popular media has been portraying Heroes as Willie’s pot opus. He initially wanted to call the album “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” for the album’s second track featuring Snoop Dogg among other guests. I’ve said my peace about how I hope Willie Nelson’s legacy is remembered for more than marijuana, but as a song, the “Roll Me Up” title track runner-up is a really fun, witty vintage Willie song. But let’s not bury the lead here about the best thing Heroes has to offer, which is a full scale collaboration between Willie and his singularly-talented son Lukas Nelson, who appears so much on this album, he really should get his name in small type somewhere on the front cover.
As I said in my review of Lukas’s latest album, he is the offspring most rich with Willie blood, with top-shelf guitar playing abilities all his own to boot. If you want to know what a rock & roll version of Willie would be, look to Lukas. Close your eyes when Lukas is singing, and you can almost see Willie, with Lukas’s natural, high-register tone, and perfect pitch and control that doesn’t ape Willie, but evokes his memory. You put these two men together in a song, and it’s a country music audiophile’s orgasm. It is a super-pairing employing skill, legacy, and a cross-generational storyline into a sublime musical experience.
But the Willie/Lukas collaboration is not by far where Heroes stops giving. From a songwriting perspective, this album has some amazing compositions, from the eloquent to the witty, from writers as far ranging as Eddie Vedder, Fred Rose and Bob Wills, to Tom Waits. Once again Lukas shows up prominently in the songwriter notes, contributing three songs himself.
Some have said this album lacks focus. I say it scores points for variety and freshness. From the heart-wrenching songs of love sung by the Lukas/Willie pairing like “The Sound of Your Memory” to the fun, yet poignant and uplifting “Come On Back Jesus (and pick up John Wayne on the way)”, the album touches on all the moods you want to hear from Willie. I’m so glad they decided to roll with with the Heroes title for this release; a much more classy choice that gives an extra shout out to Billy Joe Shaver in the only song Willie wrote by himself on the album.
Where the album may come across as too busy or unfocused is the amount of contributors to each composition, and to the album as a whole. Lukas, Jamey Johnson a couple of times, Kris Kristofferson, Snoop Dogg, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Billy Joe Shaver, Willie’s other son Micah, the omnipresent and overexposed Sheryl Crow, they all appear, and this doesn’t even mention all the musicians. Sure, many of these names we love, but there’s too many of them, diverting focus from any one pairing or performance. At times in this album you want to clear the room and just hear Willie, for the same reasons he can single-handedly make a Coldplay song sound like a masterpiece (the Coldplay song is the only one on the album where Willie rides solo).
It’s Willie’s nature to invite anyone and everyone into the process, and his big heart is one of the reasons why we love him so. But at some point you reach a limit with collaboration, especially since Willie likes to sing in such an unusual, off-tempo pentameter that makes him not the best duet partner, and because this album is in no way presented as a “duets” release. I love the cover of Heroes though. Willie’s inspiring and calming countenance speaks countless words and stories, and the plaintive cover allows his visage to speak for itself without interruption or embellishment. It recollects to the etching on the front of his magnum opus Red Headed Stranger.
This album is good both because it is Willie, and because it is good. After years of navigating through a gray area in his career and having to dabble with some record labels probably less able to do a Willie release justice, he’s back with the same company who released Red Headed Stranger, and back to making albums worthy of the world stopping down to pay attention to.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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