Black Music Matters Festival

Willie Nelson

Willie's Stash Volume 2 – 2017 (Sony Legacy)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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The "boys" referenced in the title of Willie Nelson's "Willie's Stash Vol. 2," are his sons, Lukas and Micah Nelson. This second archival selection, following "December Day" (recorded with his sister/pianist Bobbie Nelson), was tracked in 2011 with producer Buddy Cannon at the helm. The album is mostly Hank Williams Sr. songs, along with a few other 'Hanks' (Cochran, Locklin and Snow), an Alyssa Miller number and one by the elder Nelson. Willie thinks these are "great songs and standards that the young people have never heard," although it's presumed Lukas and Micah know them well. The results are - considering the vintage of this song selection - surprisingly fresh.

It's necessary to note the vault nature of these recordings, as a recent local Nelson concert appearance found his vocals a little worse for wear. Truth be told: Willie just doesn't sing this well any longer. That said, you won't hear a country album this year much better than this one.

Nelson's son's, particularly Lukas, sound a lot like their dad. And like their father, they sound to have same love and respect for this material. Locklin's "Send Me the Pillow You Dream On," is enhanced by Jim "Moose" Brown's honky tonk piano fills and Willie's distinct noodling on his trusty Trigger. These songs have been recorded so many times, it takes true skill to make them somehow seem relevant. However, that patented Willie Nelson phrasing makes "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" appropriately weepy, and "I'm Movin' On" is - dare we say it? - positively peppy.

It's a bittersweet to hear Willie sounding so good on this album, with the knowledge he may no longer reach these vocal heights again. However, his sons are both extremely talented. They may rock a little harder than their old man (Lukas' band often tours as Neil Young's garage rock backing band), but they prove with these recordings that they appreciate country music traditions. Yep, Willie's legacy is in good hands, and this stash is truly the good stuff.