On my way home again at 35,000ft. and, hopefully, avoiding the wrath of Winter Storm Pax which is currently ravaging the eastern seaboard. Originally, I was scheduled to fly directly into it’s gaping maw but, thankfully, I found a different flight at the a ninth hour to avoid being inevitably stranded in Philadelphia; certainly not a happy prospect. So it’s my last chance to milk the Texas-themed music today, beginning with the legendary ‘Red-Headed Stranger‘ album by Willie Nelson released in 1975.
Besides, being a Texan himself, this album just screams ‘country’ in true Texas fashion. It’s the perfect mellow companion for attempting to sleep off some of the protein in my system in my seat 17A. Intended as a concept album about a fugitive on the run from the law after killing his wife and her lover, from start to finish, the album is a collection of carefully crafted character sketches of preachers, lonely travelers, loose women, pining lovers, thirsty ranch hands, murderous strangers and, for whatever reason, a guy named Bonaparte. Go figure. It’s like stepping into the saloon in Willie’s mind, sidling up to the bar and ordering a sarsaparilla (particularly during the track ‘Down Yonder‘).
Despite Columbia’s doubts and the limited instrumentation, ‘Red Headed Stranger’ was a blockbuster among country music and mainstream audiences. It was certified multi-platinum, and made Nelson one of the most recognized artists in country music. The cover of ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain‘, released as a single previous to the album full release became Nelson’s first #1 hit while the album name alone would become a lasting nickname for Nelson himself. It was ranked #183 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and #1 on CMT’s 40 Greatest Albums in Country Music. In 2010 it was inducted to the National Recording Registry. In 1986 Nelson starred as the Red Headed Stranger in a movie of the same name, based on the story of the album. The album has had a strong cultural impact; the song ‘Time of the Preacher‘ has been used often in the series ‘Edge of Darkness’, and its lyrics were used as well in the first issue of the comic ‘Preacher’.
More than anything, this album makes you long for home, which, considering that’s where I’m heading, is just fine by me.