Willie Nelson, Willie Nelson & Family Live

Andy Beta

By Andy Beta

on 06.04.11 in Reviews

Willie Nelson & Family Live

Willie Nelson
A document of true kin, close friends, bandmates and musicians in town

“Willie & Family” is always an umbrella: true kin, close friends, bandmates, musicians in town, drinkin’ and golfin’ buddies. And it was on the strength of the muscular live shows that Willie & Family would throw every Fourth of July and at the Armadillo World Headquarters that convinced a record label like Columbia to sign him. Live, Willie’s band was a variant of the Allman Brothers Band, with two bassists, two drummers, dueling guitars that could rock enough for the rednecks yet jam into the stratosphere enough for the longhairs. Yet Willie’s studio albums never could quite harness that live horsepower, so this double-album set (recorded at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe in 1978) is the best document out there. They shift into overdrive on “If You’ve Got the Money,” take sharp hairpin musical turns (see the “Red Headed Stranger Medley”), then downshift into “If You Can Touch Her at All” and some solemn gospel numbers. Guests like Johnny Paycheck and Emmylou Harris join in and this remains one of the more rewarding double live albums in an era full of them.