Legendary musician Nelson and his friends share a year’s worth of stories, lyrics, riffs and dirty jokes.
At age 79, the prolific Nelson (A Tale Out of Luck, 2008, etc.) shows no signs of slowing down as he continues to travel the world with his “band of gypsies.” This funny, heartwarming collection doesn’t quite capture the experience of being on the road with the circus, but Nelson’s unmistakable voice shines through. The songwriter shares tales from the road, thoughts of the day, early memories, classic lyrics, and recollections of people like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, among a host of lesser-known collaborators. Sister Bobbie Nelson and various children also chime in, while Kinky Friedman offers an affectionate foreword and Nelson’s son Micah contributes some terrific portraits of everyone from Ray Charles to Django Reinhardt. There are some semi-serious moments, but the best characteristic about the book is its sense of being mostly unplanned. Page by page, you might get a list of the best pickers Willie has ever heard, the lyrics and the inspiration for “Shotgun Willie,” or musings on golf, addiction, biodiesel, Farm Aid or the Occupy movement. However, it is neither as immaterial as The Tao of Willie (2006) nor as essential as his autobiography. Like another collection, The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes (2001), how closely readers follow Nelson’s meandering path may largely depend on their own lucidity at the time.
Just one volume in Nelson’s long story that remains much like its author: funny, inspirational and bawdy, with a well-honed sense of humor.