Willie Nelson just released his latest album Last Man Standing in April, but as people who follow Willie know well, he doesn’t sit idle for very long, even at 85. He’s also spent a lot of time in the latter half of his career paying tribute to his heroes and contemporaries. In 2016 Willie Nelson released tribute albums to Gershwin and his close friend Ray Price. Now word is his next record will be comprised of compositions made famous by Frank Sinatra.
Speaking to AARP for the current June/July issue of their magazine, Willie says Old Blue Eyes will be the inspiration behind his next record. Willie calls Sinatra a “close friend,” and the two played shows together in Las Vegas, and even once recorded a PSA for NASA together. “I learned a lot about phrasing listening to Frank,” Willie says. “He didn’t worry about behind the beat or in front of the beat, or whatever – he could sing it either way, and that’s the feel you have to have.”
There’s no word on a release date or track list for the Sinatra album at this preliminary stage, but Willie has confirmed “My Way” will be one of the songs he covers. Willie also had praise for another titan of American music, and a guy he pays tribute to during every one of his live shows with a medley of songs: Hank Williams.
“He was an incredible writer, sang with so much feeling,” Willie says. “He was a sick man from the time he was born till he died, a sick man. He had a bad back and was always on some kind of pain medication or alcohol or whatever it took to get him up to the show. And he had a hard life. Died at 29. But nobody wrote better songs than Hank. It was the simplicity, melody and a line anybody could understand.”
And if you need something to tide you over until Willie Nelson’s Sinatra record sees the light of day, on July 13th Real Gone Music will release a 2-album, 28-song set called Things To Remember: The Pamper Demos. Pamper Music was the first publishing house Willie Nelson worked with when he moved to Nashville in 1960. Owned partially by Ray Price, it was Willie’s time at Pamper when the very first demo recordings of songs like “Crazy” and “Hello Walls” were cut. Some of the recordings have been released in compilations and such over the years, but this is the first release of all the recordings together.
Meanwhile Willie’s not slowing down on the road either, with big events planned for the 4th of July, the Outlaw Music Fest, and the recently-announced 2018 installment of Farm Aid.