Here are some supporting reasons for my thesis:
The guy is a true American treasure, a true American troubadour, and a true American legend. He's added such songs to the cultural canon as "Crazy" (the most-played jukebox song of all time, albeit in Patsy Cline's masterly rendition), "Hello Walls," "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground," "Night Life," "On the Road Again," "Whiskey River," the list goes on and on.
As one of four artists appearing on the country compilation Wanted: The Outlaws (along with Waylon Jennings, Jesse Colter and Tompall Glaser), he was responsible for the very first million-selling country album in history.
In 1985 he started Farm Aid, a nearly annual benefit concert in varying locations that helps family farmers hang onto their land in the face of corporate buy-outs and foreclosures.
He's played the same acoustic guitar--signed by many of his heroes--for so many years that he's worn a second hole into it by virtue of friction from his hand, a guitar that he loves so much that he once made a statement expressing how happy it made him to spot Roger Miller's signature as the first thing he sees when he wakes up (which also answers the question of where he keeps it when he's not playing).
In 1975 he took the ever-slickening genre of country music back to its homespun, stripped-down roots by releasing the album Red Headed Stranger, which spearheaded a traditional country music revival.
He's appeared in dozens of films, both as a lead actor and in cameos. During the Carter administration he smoked a joint on the roof of the White House. He's never afraid to take a chance at alienating his fans; he's known first and foremost as a country artist, but his last release, last year's Milk Cow Blues (Polygram), was a blues album; his next is a reggae collaboration with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare.
At 67 years of age he maintains a touring and recording schedule that would make men half his age collapse from exhaustion (his current tour takes him well into the summer months).
Every year at his ranch outside of Austin, he holds a Fourth of July picnic wherein he performs for free to anyone who shows up.
Against all expectations, he's an avid golfer.
And finally, he's one of the most charismatic performers to ever grace a stage, as well as one of the most underrated guitarists.
I've been waiting years for Willie to make a local appearance, and in a remarkable coincidence, his show this week just happens to fall on my birthday. It's the best present I could possibly hope for.
Do yourself a favor and go see Willie Nelson at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 28 at The New West, 4385 W. Ina Road. Advance tickets are available for $28 at the New West box office; they'll be $32 at the door if there are any left by showtime. The show is all-ages and non-smoking. For more information call 744-7744.
SAFE LANDING: After less than a year as a local, Teddy Morgan is learning to do things the Tucson way. As a resident of the Austin, Texas music scene, Morgan released a trio of albums, two on famed Austin blues label Antone's and one on roots label Hightone. In true Old Pueblo fashion his new release is strictly a D.I.Y. (that's do it yourself, folks) affair.
Crashing Down is an entirely self-released endeavor, and Morgan's first true foray into Tucsondom in every sense. The disc was recorded at Craig Schumacher's Wavelab Studios; features artwork by beloved local DJ Kidd Squidd; and includes guest appearances by familiar local names like Joey Burns, Nick Luca and Neil Harry, in addition to Morgan's usual rhythm section of Jon Penner and Chris Hunter, a.k.a the Pistolas. And then there's the music.
Morgan began his career as a hot-shit young blues singer/guitarist/songwriter with his Antone's releases, then shifted gears a bit for Lost Love, his lone Hightone release, which saw him foray into swampy roots rock territory. On Crashing, you can practically hear Tucson rub off on him. Flaunting our beloved y'alltenative sound this time around, the disc effectively completes Morgan's transformation into Tucsonan.
"Never Again" kicks the disc off with a dose of Steve Earle-washed driving rockin' country, a tidy little ass-kicker at just over two minutes. Maybe it's the guest appearance by Burns on accordion and vibes, but "Western Star" has that desert-noir feel that Calexico has made world famous. An obvious ode to his new bride (the reason he moved to Tucson in the first place), "Girl of My Dreams" would sound cheesy on paper, but its heart-in-hand earnestness elevates it to gorgeous traditional dirge-like ballad status. "The Price I Pay" returns Morgan to the Creedence-flavored swamp-roots that he flaunted on Lost Love. And his take on the chorus-less "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" does Dylan proud with its understated approach.
In fact, understated could be the key to the disc's success. Whereas Morgan once earned a reputation as an exceptionally talented blues guitar-slinger, Crashing Down is rife with tastefully understated licks, and the album features easily as much acoustic guitar as electric, which may or may not shock his longtime fans, who can rest assured that his swaggeringly confident, gruff-throated voice is stronger than ever here. Morgan is a welcome treasure to the Tucson music scene and deserves your undivided attention.
Give it to him when Teddy Morgan and the Pistolas celebrate the release of the new disc at 9 p.m. on Friday, February 23 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., before heading out on a month-long tour. Topless Opry opens, and cover is $5. For more information call 622-8848.
SPREADING THE JAM: Hailing from San Diego, self-proclaimed "West Coast Trance-Rock-Reggae" band Government Grown brings its stuff to town this week for the first time. As evidenced by its latest release, New Pieces of Clay (Agave Records), the band falls squarely into the good-time, feel-good jam band corner of the world, and has opened for a diverse roster of headiners including Ozomatli, G. Love and Special Sauce, Widespread Panic and Spearhead. As with most bands of its ilk, though, GG is surely best experienced in a live setting. Your chance comes at 9 p.m. on Friday, February 23 at Nimbus Brewery, 3850 E 44th St. For further details call the friendly folks at Nimbus at 745-9175.
CHEESE, GLORIOUS CHEESE: Another jam band, one with a slightly higher profile, returns to Tucson this week. String Cheese Incident, which has built a large and loyal following by doing things the old-fashioned grassroots way--by taking it to the road with their eclectic live shows--has its roots planted in the bluegrass tradition, but keeps listeners on their toes by incorporating elements of jazz, funk, salsa, calypso and Afro-Cuban into the mix. Its forthcoming release should introduce the band to an even wider audience, as it's produced by studio wiz Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. Expect to hear some new songs from it, as well as older originals and the band's always-interesting choice of cover tunes when String Cheese Incident brings its Winter Carnival Tour to the TCC Music Hall on Wednesday, February 28. Advance tickets are available for $25 through Ticketmaster at Wherehouse Music and Robinson's-May. For more info, or to charge by phone, call 321-1000.