Willie’s Granddaughter Raelyn Nelson Looks to Make Own Name
That’s right ladies and gentlemen, the Nelson clan can now field three generations of performers on the stage, and the new generation is about as defiant and ass kicking as you might expect. Rearing out of the gates comes the rambunctious and ribald Raelyn Nelson and the Raelyn Nelson Band: a full throttle country rock experience, just as much Loretta Lynn as it is The Ramones, with Willie’s little granddaughter out there in skimpy miniskirts and a flirty midriff while making one hell of a racket and breaking hearts.
As you can imagine, Raelyn was raised with country music poured right into her bottle, and along with her obvious influences, (including one that goes by the name of “Willie”), she’s a huge Loretta Lynn fan, and will put her dukes up to anyone who has anything cross to say about the country queen. But when it came to putting out her debut EP, the music took a different direction, with more of a rock and punk attitude as can be inferred heavily by the block letters, and even Raelyn’s exposed midriff that mimics almost exactly the cover of The Ramones’ 1976 debut cover.
Raelyn has been playing in Nashville and performing for a while now mostly in the vein of her family tradition. But when she partnered up with underground rock producer Jonathan Bright to try something a little different, what they came up with is self-referred to as “Country/Garage Rock”. Wild-eyed with a lot of girl power and melodic sensibility, The Raelyn Nelson Band EP may not exactly wow the traditional country crowd, but it certainly gets your attention and has you singing along, even if it’s filed as a guilty pleasure.
The lead off track to the EP “Do You” and the later track “Careless” finds Raelyn waxing unapologetically self-destructive yet ultimately resilient in a similar vein to Lydia Loveless. “Moon Song” takes a lighter approach, with Raelyn appropriating the ukelele like her aunt Amy Nelson of Folk Uke, and dueting with her famous grandfather himself in a song that is simple and sappy, but still refers to the family’s natural inclination to songcraft. “He’s All Mine” is where Raelyn exposes her country roots and love for Loretta in a track that is twangy without interrupting the winning streak of infectious groove and melody this EP sports. The final song “Getta Room” about inappropriately mugging down in a booth may be a little bit too long, but exhumes the early 80’s punk rock approach of girls with the guts to tell it all.
With this EP, Raelyn isn’t looking to make your eyes water, but for what it is, it shows a lot of promise from the young Nelson as a singer, front person, and songwriter. And as she likes to point out, “I don’t really have any desire to be a ‘solo-artist’. Everyone in my family who plays music has always placed a lot of importance on band chemistry, on stage, off stage and in the studio. Our band can almost read each other’s minds. Why would I mess with that?”
Reading Raelyn’s mind along with Jonathan Bright are Paulie Simmons and Preach Rutherford from the band Defense Wins Championships.
Raelyn is the daughter of Willie’s son Billy Nelson from Willie’s very first marriage. In a somewhat strange circumstance, Raelyn is actually slightly older than her uncle, fellow country rock performer Lukas Nelson. But no matter, Lukas Nelson, Raelyn’s aunt Amy Nelson from Folk Uke, and everyone else from the Nelson clan has welcomed Raelyn into the performing family. “I’ve been told by more than one person in the ‘biz’ that I’m stubborn like my grandpa. I kind of like that.”
There’s a lot still to be determined about where Raelyn’s musical nose will point, and if she can make music a full-time, non-stop endeavor. This certainly should be approached as a rock album first with a little bit of country mixed in, but classifications aside, Raelyn Nelson shows a lot of spunk on this very enjoyable EP.
1 1/2 of 2 guns up.
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July 14, 2014 @ 7:56 am
As usual…great article. Raelyn is scheduled to open for her grandpa’s best buddy Billy Joe Shaver at Outlaw Fest…should be interesting.
July 14, 2014 @ 8:20 am
This is the kind of sound pop country should be evolving into. Its, poppy/catchy, there’s plenty of traditional instrumentation, it’s not just the same old tune re-written, and it’s void of any rap, electronica, and metal sounds.
July 14, 2014 @ 8:40 am
I agree. Raelyn Nelson proves that you can be young and fun and not alienate your audience for listening.
July 14, 2014 @ 11:38 am
Great album and great band with a strong and unique sound. Raelyn and her band are coloring outside the lines of traditional country, just like Willie did all those years ago. She is going in a different direction and I am sure others will follow because this is good stuff.
TX Music Jim
July 14, 2014 @ 12:17 pm
Maybe I am losing just a little here but what litle I heard has almost a Jason and the Scorchers vibe do it. very cool.
July 14, 2014 @ 4:25 pm
JATS is one of my all time favorite bands and helped get me interested in country music.
July 14, 2014 @ 1:57 pm
Liking this a lot! Fresh, energetic, and catchy without really sounding like anything else I’ve heard. Thanks for another good rec 🙂
July 14, 2014 @ 4:39 pm
This girl knows her way around a hook! Listening to “Do You” I was instantly reminded of Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles. One of those instances where you know you’ll be purchasing before even hearing the entire song. Fantastic stuff.
July 14, 2014 @ 7:50 pm
Hmmm…..I must be listening to a different track than some of the other folks here ..I’m shaking my head at the comments . At the risk of having my SCM privileges revoked , I am so unimpressed by this I don’t know where to begin with my comments .
With apologies to Willie, his granddaughter has one of the more unremarkable voices I’ve listened to in quite some time . She’s barely on pitch ..there’s no conviction in the lyric , no emotion and no dynamic . The lyric is trite , at best . Poppy ? You bet. Commercial ? absolutely- commercial like background music for a margarine ad written and sung by a 12 year old . Even Willie’s guitar is out of tune to the track ….OK OK …that’s HIS SOUND …I’ll give him that one.
Sorry country fans …I’m pointing and yelling out ” The Emperor Has No Clothes ” on this one . Please don’t stone me .
July 14, 2014 @ 8:03 pm
If you don’t like her that’s totally fine. But there’s nothing wrong with her pitch. That is quickly becoming the go-to argument against any singer someone doesn’t like whether it’s true or not.
July 16, 2014 @ 7:25 am
Albert, I actually got through both clips without cringing and that’s a rare thing. I liked the bass on Do You and on Moon Song I was tapping my toe. It was better than so much other pop country stuff. I think her pitch is fine because, like I said, I didn’t cringe. (My eyes will actually water when I have to listen to terrible off pitch singing). I have a good ear and am a musician, not professional, but I can play and sing a bit and my family is full of professional musicians. Most of the female pop country people are so overdone and non melodious that I often have to leave places when their stuff is playing.
July 16, 2014 @ 8:37 am
I’m not sure we want to be measuring new music against the pop-country on the radio currently . The bar , in many cases is , in my opinion , just set too low . As a songwriter , I don’t aim to shoot for something ‘better than the pop-country on the radio ‘ I try to be inspired and compete with the BEST writers I can be exposed to . Like an old writer once said ” I want to write HELP ME MAKE IT THROUGH THE NIGHT every time I sit down to create a song ” . That’s the bar .
For me , it isn’t enough that this vocalist ” doesn’t make me cringe ” , Karen .Not when I KNOW that so many other great vocal talents exist and I feel cheated that a voice that ” doesn’t make me cringe ” gets the attention those others deserve . I don’t want to ‘settle’ for just OK . Agreed , Raelyn’s pitch is “‘just fine”….I didn’t say she can’t sing or sings flat . I said she’s barely on pitch .
I totally understand , appreciate and am a fan of a voice …male or female …which is arresting based on its unique character , it ability to evoke the response the song aspires to evoke ( Lucinda Williams , Neil Young , Mindy Smith , Sturgill Simpson come to mind to illustrate my point ) . For me , a great lyric , a strong perspective in the narrative and a solid melody can often overcome a lack of ” technical prowess” in a performance . But if you don’t have those things going for you , you’ve got just what we’re hearing all day long on country radio …auto tuned generic voices with nothing to sing about and over-produced tracks trying to find a vibe to make up for everything else lacking …like TALENT !
The music clips above may indeed have a ‘vibe’ about them that listeners respond to . A song should have a vibe to connect with listeners . For me , these particular clips had no vibe , a weak vocal with no character in the performances , an underwritten lyric and a very raw sound which some may accept as a production choice but which I’d call a bit TOO under-produced given the lack of dynamic , lyrical substance , Willie’s obviously out of tune guitar and his granddaughter’s thin , immature -sounding vocals.
I really feel as though the past 8-10 years of country radio have conditioned us to accepting ANYTHING that breaks the current mold and yes …this material does that . But breaking the mold is just the first steps to creating something more meaningful and more powerful .
July 16, 2014 @ 9:06 am
I don’t disagree with you, the bar is set so low, I think we have a generation of kids who have no idea what real music is.
Frankly Albert, I don’t really like Pickler, I think she has a monotonous baby voice and there are many others. I don’t listen to any country pop or pop radio. Swift and Perry can’t sing on pitch and mostly do what I call repetitive monotone ying yang. I think Trigger mentioned list songs and a bit of rhythm. I wasn’t measuring this music against anything, except my reaction. I can’t care about lyrics or instrumentals if the voice is bad. Raelyn’s voice isn’t bad and she sounds like she can have a bit of fun while singing and, yes, it is a bit raw, but isn’t that one of the things we harp about…………all the “fixed” stuff that isn’t real?
No need to convince me. I wasn’t defending her like I’m gonna buy her music and I do get tired of kids riding along on their parents or grandparents coattails in the music business when there are many others out there who are much more talented. I have mentioned it here and people probably are tired of it, but I have a daughter who has been singing professionally for 13 years now……stage, tours, cruise ships. She sings live on pitch every day and can sing any genre and sing it better than most. Most of the people mentioned here couldn’t hold up against her if they had to sing several octaves, harmonize and sing live remembering thousands of lyrics and many times while dancing. She had an offer to go to Nashville but didn’t have the time. She brings people to tears all the time. She probably will never get her “big break” but she will endure far longer as a real singer/musician than many of these flashes in the pan. (And she has made it entirely on her talent and hard work)..
July 15, 2014 @ 1:09 am
Sorry Trigger ….we’re gonna have to agree to disagree on this one .I’ve listened again and I gotta stand by my first comment . But I’ll give her points for not using Autotune . I can’t imagine her coming close to holding her own on a stage with kellie Pickler, Carrie , Lee Ann Rimes , Miranda, much less Dolly or Reba . Also , not only is this not country , I don’t find it to be good Pop compared to what Katy Perry , Pink, Miley , Lady Gaga and most other females are releasing in that genre .
July 15, 2014 @ 11:40 am
Cool stuff! I did a little searching and checked out the whole EP on their Reverbnation page. Very original and fun. I’m not sure Albert read your review, but I can see why he didn’t like it, if he was expecting Miranda, Carrie, Kelli, Pink, Lady Ga Ga, etc. The fact that it DOESN’T sound like the mainstream is what grabbed my attention, but this is certainly not for people who prefer their music overly-processed and slick.
As for Albert’s “pitch” comments, I’d respectfully disagree. It doesn’t help his argument when all of the female examples he mentions (with the exception of Dolly) make liberal use of pitch correction, both in the studio and live. I’m not suggesting that they can’t sing, just that Albert’s ears are tuned to that special “magic” that auto tune brings to an artist. Love his strong opinions, though! Nothing wrong with that.
April 4, 2015 @ 5:39 am
I am just a music fan and Country is one of my least favorite genres – that is Mainstream Country. I am much more of a Rock/Jazz aficionado, After reading several of Albert’s posts I just had to comment. I see the Music that Raelyn does as almost (what we used to call) Cow-Punk, and has a tilt towards Rock-a-Billy, both of which are genres that I really like.
In all of Albert’s comments I see personal preference and not really a true assessment of the artist’s capabilities – it just seems like the music isn’t his cup of tea. There are a number of superstars (of many musical genres) who are not technically perfect, or sometimes not even technically that good – that are fantastic artists.To me Willie is a perfect example.
Why do people like Willie? Is it his perfect Voice or his perfectly tuned Guitar? NO. His sound is definitely unique, and that is part of the attraction, but in my opinion people like him because he is genuine and he LOVES what he does. That is exactly what I see and hear from Raelyn. Her songs are simple but they are FUN, and the very first time you see her (last night on the video for me) you can tell immediately that she LOVES what she is doing and is having a lot of FUN doing it!
She probably will never make it to any kind of Superstar status, but I will own any of her music that I can find. It is infectious! But you see I just like the music she makes and it seems like Albert simply doesn’t.
July 15, 2014 @ 1:38 am
I really like “Moon Song”. The upbeat acoustic nature of the song gives me a deep sense of happiness.
“Do You” is a bit too busy for my tastes, but the music captures the mood of the lyrics well. One thing that struck me about the song is the melody for the line “I wanna be with you”. It instantly reminded me of a pop song that I remembered hearing a long time ago, distant but clear in my memory. Upon running the tune through my head a few times, I realized that it resembled the melody in “Everywhere” by Michelle Branch:
“Cause you’re everywhere to me
When I close my eyes it’s you I see”
July 15, 2014 @ 10:03 am
I’m not completely sold on this. Very middle of the road for me. I’ll probably end up listening to the full EP eventually, but these 2 clips gave me nothing that made me stand up and take notice.
Bigfoot is Real (and wishes his last name was Nelson)
July 15, 2014 @ 10:37 am
The Ramones cover pose does not live up to the music inside. (In fact it’s almost insulting.) I am with Topher on this. Yawn…
And what is the word on the Boomswagglers?
Semi Country Music Fan
July 17, 2014 @ 9:03 am
I was not blown away after listening to the 2 songs above. Not bad just not great. Just middle of the road. However I would to this band over the pop Country music any day of the week. The Secret Sisters or Puss N Boots are new bad ass female Country bands. I don’t mind if you sound out of tune as long as you grab me by the throat and blow me away.
Ryan Adams has made my hair stand up many times. Listen to his former bands Whiskeytown’s album Strangers Almanac. What’s funny is that Ryan Adams does not like Country music yet he sound more country then most of the stuff coming out of Nashville.
My current favorite Country band is called Yarn and they hail from Brooklyn NY. Strange place for a Country band but they make it work. Yarn mixes Americana, Country, Folk, Rock, Bluegrass and whatever else they feel like playing into a bowl and make it sound like Yarn. They are a new band (They formed in 2006) that sounds like they were born in the wrong generation. They could have easily been around in the 60’s and 70’s. Yarn has become one of the hardest-working and harder-touring bands for this generation”™s digital natives and new music followers. They play every night of the week for anyone that will listen. Yarn’s lead singer Blake wears his heart on his sleeve and is not afraid to write songs about the darker side of everyday life. For more info check out the following links.
Download free concerts – https://archive.org/details/YarnMusic
July 17, 2014 @ 9:42 am
Hey Semi, I listened to Empty Pockets and really liked it. Their instrumentals are very country and I definitely could listen to more! Haha, lots of people in New York are from somewhere else trying to get their big break. I didn’t read Yarn’s bio so they may, indeed, be from Brooklyn.
Thanks for sharing this.
Semi Country Music Fan
July 18, 2014 @ 7:25 am
I am glad you dug them Karen. I’ve been a Yarn fan for years. I’ve seen them in concert more times then I can count. They used to have a residency at Hill Country BBQ in NYC. Every Wednesday I would go see them play. They are the best kept secret. So much talent in that band. Everyone in the bands gets a moment to shine. Just when you thought you figured them out they switch things up. They are not just a Bluegrass band or just a Country band. In concert they plug in and get really loud without loosing that acoustic sound. Wait till you hear Andrew Hendryx on the Electric Mandolin. He can shred like Jimi Hendrix or Jerry Garcia. They can sound really Country or not Country at all. I guess it depends on the mood of the band and the day of the week. They feed off the crowd. They love the fans and are such a friendly band. Yarn has a new song that has yet to be officially released called Austin Texas 1972. It sounds like old school Willie Nelson. He even gets a shout out. The song talks about the early days of the band rehearsing at Hill country BBQ and wondering if Texas will even let them in. They also just started covering the song Eminence Front by The Who. They can do it all. Yarn’s lead singer is originally from Schenectady NY. He left the small town for the big city and never looked back. He’s since moved to the Carolina’s. One thing I have always loved about Yarn is that they don’t play by the rules or try to be anything their not. Yarn has 7 albums and over 100+ song in the catalog to choose from plus a ton of covers as well. Not a bad song in the bunch. The album Empty Pockets is Yarn’s 2nd album which was self produced. Pretty cool for an unknown band to get Caitlin Cary and Edie Brickell to guest on the album. I once read an article that said if it was the 1970’s Yarn would be on the cover of Rolling Stone. It’s sad that a band with this much talent can barley pay for gas money and rent yet some commercial artists with no talent make millions.. Here is a couple more links for you to check out.The 1st one is a link to Yarn’s Youtube page. the 2nd link takes you to Yarn’s fan message board.Feel free to stop in and say hello.
August 24, 2018 @ 3:18 am
thank you Raelyn for your reply about willies fake nephew knew he wasn’t related to willie he talks shit willie dont
SHIRLEY (ny AND (TX)
April 15, 2019 @ 1:31 pm
RAELYN — yOU ARE FANTASTIC……….GREAT FAMILY. A HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUR
I STILL KEEP HIS CD IN MY CAR – FOR –THE BEST MUSIC (NEXT TO FRANK)
September 2, 2019 @ 9:26 am
Raelyn – PLEASE TELL ME YOUR GRAND GRANDFATHER IS IN GOOD HEALTH.
YOU WROTE ONCE BEFORE. YOU HAVE A GREAT FAMILY.
PLEASE ANSWER OUR PRAYERS THAT GRANDPA WILLY IS IN GOOD HEALTH. TO
September 19, 2021 @ 7:08 am
Me and my wife saw her up close here in Sacramento yeserday,9-18-21. Wow, she is better than good! Entertaining, great band, and if she keeps it up she will be at the top just like her favorite stat Lorretta Lynn. After the show bumped into her at a food court and she said what’s your name and we talked some and I being 75 said don’t ever let a man control your life and she said Willy takes care of that! She told my wife that Willy baby sets sometimes for her as well. I want her to make it to the top! Guys, if you have not seen her up close well she is more than pretty and out going to the max! She told my wife that she has children but she is not married.