Red Headed Stranger album cover
Red Headed Stranger

Willie Nelson


Columbia almost didn’t release this album, which was a fine way to welcome Nelson to the label. Jerks! But they did. Willie had the last laugh, especially since the world of indie rock ended up sounding exactly like this. Will Oldham has cited this album as an inspiration for his work as Bonnie Prince Billy, and tons of musicians who otherwise don’t seem to have time for country have love for this. It’s direct, and unsentimental, and Nelson has a hanging judge feel, even as he describes his own life in this song cycle. The narrator begins the album by killing his unfaithful wife and her lover, and then goes, slowly, on a sort of low-key fugitive journey, even recasting the Forties classic, “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain,” as a stark and somber song about regret. Murder isn’t the answer, kids!

Sasha Frere-Jones

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