Willie Nelson, The Troublemaker

Andy Beta

By Andy Beta

on 05.15.11 in Reviews

The Troublemaker

Willie Nelson
His first foray into tackling a songbook

Recorded at Atlantic Recording Studios in 1973 in between the country-funk of Shotgun Willie and the more conceptual boot-scoot of Phases & Stages, but not released until after the success of Redheaded Stranger, The Troublemaker marks Willie’s first foray into tackling a songbook, presaging efforts like To Lefty From Willie and Stardust. For this, he dusts off the old family hymnal for an album’s worth of gospel. But don’t think that Willie is gonna adhere to a certain perspective though, as the title track makes clear. Foregrounded is the jazzy interplay of his band rather than the solemn message of the Lord. Be it James Clayton Day’s steel guitar licks on “Uncloudy Day,” the quick shuffle of “There is a Fountain” and the harmonizing of Sammi Smith and Doug Sahm on “Where the Soul Never Dies” not to mention the man’s own licks on the freewheeling “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” Willie and Family come first on this album.