CD Reviews for 4/16/08 – Willie Nelson retrospective

Compact Capsules for 04/16/08
by Dan Ferguson

Willie Nelson
One Hell of a Ride
Columbia/Legacy 13915

Searching for the mother lode of Willie Nelson collections? If you’re willing to shell out the big bucks, I’d recommend the 8-CD compilation Nashville Was the Roughest from Germany-based reissue king Bear Family Records. If you’re on a budget, the next best set may be the newly released domestic box set One Hell of a Ride. Brought to us by the Legacy reissue arm of Sony-BMG Entertainment, the retrospective One Hell of a Ride spreads 100 tracks from the Red-Headed Stranger over four discs. It begins all the way back in 1954 and a song called “When I’ve Sang My Last Hillbilly Song” recorded in the studio of a radio station in Pleasanton, Texas for Sarg Records. Stripped bare with only voice and acoustic guitar (and clearly on the lo fi side), the voice and phrasing is unmistakably Willie. Things pick up on the fidelity end on the segueing track, a sweet slice of country called “No Place for Me” recorded in 1957 in Portland, Oregon for Willie Nelson Records. From there it’s onto a couple of more small label Texas tracks, the second of which is the original recording of “Night Life” from 1960 credited to “Paul Buskirk & His Little Men, featuring Hugh Nelson.” Hugh?!! The remainder of Disc One, which checks in at 29 tracks, is the stuff that laid the groundwork for the greatness to come. “Hello Walls”, “Funny How Time Slips Away”, “Crazy”, “Mr. Record Man”, “One in a Row”, and “The Party’s Over”, most songwriters would’ve given their right arm to record just a one of them. Willie owned ‘em all! Disc Two’s 27 tracks focus on nuggets from the late 1960s and 1970s as taken from some of Nelson’s most classic recordings. Disc Three covers the late 1970s to mid-1980s period, a time when Nelson’s career, thanks to hits like “Whiskey River”, “On the Road Again”, “Angel Flying Too Close To the Ground”, and “Always On My Mind”, had the Red-Headed one at the top of the heap in the world of country music. Spanning 1984 – 2007, Disc Four covers the most ground time-wise and at the same time represents the most adventurous period in Nelson’s recording career where he wasn’t afraid to try anything. More often than not Nelson hits the mark displaying a fearlessness few can rival. Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up Nelson’s career. He made music on his own terms. It’s a trait that carried him all the way to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Looking for the one-stop shop without breaking the bank? One Hell of a Ride is the ticket. (Visit

(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected].)<...