Longform

Five Essential Willie Nelson Albums

This week and into next, the State of Texas and the rest of the world will join together in saluting American hero Willie Nelson on his 80th birthday. Rocks Off would certainly like to add our congratulations, but we woke up today -- well, yesterday -- looking to start an argument.

The standard line in Willie's current bio is that he has released some 200 albums, and recently it sure seems like he has something new in stores every few months. Since 2008, his original, non-compilation titles include Two Men With the Blues (with Wynton Marsalis), Country Music, Willie and the Wheel (with Asleep at the Wheel), American Classic, Ray Charles tribute Here We Go Again, Heroes, and the brand-new Let's Face the Music and Dance. There may not be a stone-cold classic in there, but most of them are above average, and there certainly isn't an outright dog in the bunch.

True, Willie has said before that all he really does these days is play music and play golf. But he's still releasing albums at a clip that -- even considering that the Charles tribute and Two Men With the Blues were largely recorded live in one evening -- would put a man half his age to shame. There are a lot of reasons to admire Willie Nelson, and his laid-back but dogged work ethic is a big one for us personally.

Now, imagine that through some cruel twist of fate, you do not own any Willie Nelson albums. At all. That's where we come in. Of course these are not the only Willie Nelson albums you should buy, just the five we think you should buy first. But please don't stop there.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray