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Monday, September 19, 2005

Pick of the Week (9/19/05)

Willie Nelson -- Red Headed Stranger (Columbia) 1975

It's a classic concept album, and one that put a giant whole in my wall of prejudice against country music. Mostly dark, but with moments of humor and an element of hope. Hater or not, "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" should undo you.


Blogger Alfred said...

I've been curious, but this review made me pause:

This tale of a murdering preacher wild in his abandonment has inspired much loose talk about violence and Western myth. Ed Ward argues that the Stranger is a fantasy of vengeance rejected on side two, but all I hear is that he's redeemed by another woman there--if she leaves him, he'll kill her too. Some of the individual pieces are quite nice, but the gestalt is the concept album at its most counterproductive--the lyrics render the nostalgic instrumental parts unnecessarily ironic and lose additional charm in narrative context. B-

How do you respond?

2:19 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

I'd need a few more listens to make a firm response, but a couple thoughts:

1)I'd agree that the ending isn't as pleasing as Willie would want; that's the deconstructionist/feminist side of me. Are domestic violencers changeable? I don't know. Certainly he's redeemed by love, which is unlikely to work out, and also by burning out his rage (which can restore).

2)I like it as a good Western.

3)Christgau's talking to himself in that last sentence. If I knew what he meant by being rendered "unnecessarily ironic", I'd respond. I think they're beautiful little interludes that show the pacifying taking place. The world -- after a stretch of red and chaos -- is being re-established. Nothing ironic in that. The "narrative context"? Um, they're the words to a story -- I think they really only exist in "narrative context." Unless he means the instrumentals, in which case his grammar's off (but his thinking would be more stable).

2:51 PM  
Blogger sintalentos said...

i came to this album via a Carla Bozulich show (i understand she subsequently released an album, as well), which was mesmerizing. the original album has become quite dear to me; its sense of melancholy is mired in rage and a very convoluted sense of redemption... which fascinates me. i have never given it much thought, though. so, in light of the above review, i may be perceived as a moral deviant. oops. "can i sleep in your arms tonight" is a breathtaking ballad which i listen to in tandem with vespertine. the only downside for me is that the nels cline singers' take on the instrumental passages made the originals sound a bit creaky and quaint.

1:35 PM  

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