Willie Nelson – Teatro
It’s of course the infamous 4.20 today, and I saw something pretty funny earlier—it read “It’s 4.20, make sure to leave cookies and milk out for Willie Nelson.”
Which of course reminded me of Willie Nelson, which of course reminded me of Willie Nelson’s actual greatest record, which is this one.
And yes, it’s Daniel Lanois again. With all the atmospheric ghosty-funky vibey things he does … but that’s not really what this album’s about. It’s about 3 things. It’s about having Emmylou Harris sing the LOW harmony. And it’s about ACTUALLY hearing Willie Nelson play HIS guitar the way HE plays it. And finally, it’s about these two cats:
Tony Mangurian – drums, percussion
Victor Indrizzo – drums, percussion
Because they’re the true secret weapons of this incomparable album. The gumbo funk they drop behind Willie’s spasmodically excellent Tex-Mex nylon angularities is just devastatingly tasty.
It’s a killer, killer album.
Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball
As has happened with so many other remarkable artists, the Daniel Lanois factor resulted in a stunner of an album when he worked with Emmylou Harris to create this masterpiece.
All the atmosphere, the vibey-ness, the soundscapes, the subtle trash-can funks, the mystery, the sonic mythology—all the things we’ve come to associate with the Lanois touch all are here in spades. What’s different, is his collaborator.
When Lanois did what Lanois does with Dylan, with Chris Whitley, with Willie Nelson, with The Neville Brothers, he took a raw and funky sound, and gave it a kind of creepy grace. Here, however, his raw material was already rich with grace and mystery—the result is a kind of haunted elegance that transcends even his own propensities for drama and atmosphere.
As to Emmylou herself, she does what she does best, but better. She OWNS these songs; every one of them; deploying the cracked beauty of her lilting and plaintive red dirt twang in the service of a deeply compelling suite of songs. Highlights include her takes on Neil Young’s Wrecking Ball, Anna McGarrigle’s Goin’ Back to Harlan, and Lucinda Williams’ Sweet Old World. The stunner of stunners (and the only cut she takes a co-write on) is Deeper Well.
Emmylou launched a new era for herself with this album, an era we’d see hit full stride with her follow-up Red Dirt Girl, which marked her emergence as a songwriter to be reckoned with. But before you get there, get here.