Givin' Ya The Willies, Live
:: I Gotta Get Drunk ::
:: I Never Cared For You ::
:: Something to Think About ::
:: Opportunity to Cry/Permanently Lonely ::
Country music and I cared nothing for each other until a few years ago, 1999 to be exact, when I saw Willie Nelson play at Texas A&M University’s Homecoming Concert while visiting my sister who studied there. Well, it was more of a party than a concert, with kegs of beer and BBQ stands strewn around the edges of the park, and Willie & Family whoopin’ it up on a stage surrounded by a moat. I was having a good time getting drunk and licking sauce off my fingers when a particular song started playing that caused my knees to buckle and practically knocked me on my ass. The song, “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” was filled with some of the saddest, sweetest lyrics I’d ever heard. I don’t know what it says about me, exactly, but I find that true happiness is found in the saddest of songs. Anyway, maybe it was all the alcohol I’d consumed, but I believe I felt that song wrap its arms around me as if to say, “Hey Jackass, country music does care about you.” Or, at least Willie does.
Okay, enough of that hokey nonsense, but sadness is what makes this album so damn gorgeous. Every song: utterly depressing. I love it, and that type of song is what Willie does best. His songwriting can defy you not to reach for the bourbon while the speakers are crying his lyrics of loneliness, hence this album’s perfect title - I Gotta Get Drunk. Actually, RCA had originally released this album as, “Live Country Music Concert” in 1966, but repackaged it and added the title song to open this 1976 version of the record. The album nicely captures Willie in the early years of his career. His voice is strong, as are the songs, and there’s a lot of good banter between him and the audience - both having a great time despite the melancholy nature of each song.
On a funnier note, one of my favorite Willie moments occurred when seeing him do an in-store at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. in 2000. Tower was only letting 100 people in to hear him, so a friend and I got there bright and early on a Saturday morning and got a good spot in line. When Willie’s bus arrived, he emerged amidst a cloud of smoke, waved and headed into the store. We were soon led in and treated to a stripped-down 45-minute set of songs with him on that trademark beat-up guitar of his, and at a certain point someone in the audience yelled out for him to play some obscure song. Willie paused and pulled his sunglasses down, revealing eyes tinged with red (and I think a bit of craziness), and said, “Son, you’re lucky that I can remember how to play anything at this point.” Ha! You gotta love Willie!