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Albums Of The Week: Willie Nelson | Bluegrass

The Red-Headed Stranger heads for the hills with new renditions of old favourites.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Willie Nelson’s new studio album Bluegrass  (his 151st, according to Texas Monthly’s interactive All Willie Nelson Albums Ranked list) presents 12 classic Nelson compositions — including On the Road Again, Yesterday’s Wine, Still is Still Moving to Me, Good Hearted Woman and more — freshly interpreted by Willie and a star-studded bluegrass ensemble.

Produced by longtime musical collaborator Buddy Cannon, Bluegrass features musicians including Barry Bales (upright bass), Ron Block (banjo), Aubrey Haynie (fiddle), Rob Ickes (dobro), Josh Martin (acoustic guitar), Mickey Raphael (harmonica), Seth Taylor (mandolin), Bobby Terry (acoustic guitar, gut string guitar), Dan Tyminski (mandolin); backing vocals are provided by Wyatt Beard, Buddy and Melonie Cannon.

Bluegrass features cover art by Micah Nelson (Willie’s son, a multimedia artist and musician), whose previous artwork for Willie includes album covers for I Don’t Know A Thing About Love and First Rose of Spring, as well as the cover of his 2013’s autobiographical New York Times bestseller Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road.

Willie’s new album is a salute to the Appalachian old-time string band music which crystalized into a genre and was given a name by Kentucky songwriter/performer/recording artist Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, whose post-war recordings profoundly influenced Willie’s songwriting sensibilities and the direction of American country music in general. On Bluegrass, his first album tribute to the genre, Nelson brings together a dozen songs connecting his personal history to his lifelong love for roots music.

Using his own catalog as source material, in the spirit of traditional bluegrass sourcing hillbilly folk music, Willie chose songs combining the kind of strong melodies, memorable storylines and tight ensemble-interplay found in traditional bluegrass interpretations of the roots (from European melodies to African rhythms) of American folk songs. With Bluegrass, Willie uncovers new truths in his own songs.”