Think you know all there is to know about Willie Nelson? Even if you own all 200-something of his albums — something even Shotgun himself likely can't claim — no Nelson discography is complete without Phosphorescent's 2009 LP To Willie (Dead Oceans). Mining the venerable outlaw's back pages for songs that rarely appear in their writer's set list these days (many of them from his late-'60s/early-'70s Yesterday's Wine period), Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Matthew Houck manages to cast Nelson's music in a brand-new light that comes in two drastically different shades: Forlorn glass-gazer "Reasons to Quit" distills the harsh neon of an empty barroom at last call, while reverent gospel chorale "Can I Sleep in Your Arms" reflects the first glimmers of a hopeful dawn. Nelson himself was impressed enough to invite Houck to last year's Farm Aid concert in St. Louis (and then, of course, to join him onstage), but Phosphorescent is no cover act. Houck, originally from Athens, Georgia, has released several albums of his own haunting, spare indie-folk; Here's to Taking It Easy, his first since 2007's Pride, is due in May. First single "It's Hard to Be Humble (When Yr From Alabama)," which picks up the tempo and adds horns for a Leon Russell vibe, is streaming now at www.deadoceans.com.
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