Willie Nelson – Band of Brothers
Willie Nelson has always been a bit of an iconoclast. He was part of the reactionary outlaw country movement, he’s remained an outspoken advocate for the end of marijuana prohibition, and then there’s the fact he’s worked with rapper and weed king Snoop Doog on more than one occasion. His pigtail-toting persona paints him as a bit of an oddball, but he’s always had a political edge. But at 81 years old, and 68 records deep, Band of Brothers finds Nelson taking a classical approach, with a focus on the reflective and retrospective.
Musically, Band of Brothers plays out like you might expect a country album to. There aren’t many left-field detours or heavy-handed experimentations. It’s slumbering, reflective, and usually doesn’t leave second gear. You can imagine everyone sitting around a crackling fire under the moonlight, smoking a joint while Nelson cracks a grin and strums out another tune. The arrangements are accomplished and highly polished, but they often act more as perfunctory backdrops to Nelson’s voice. This is mostly fine, but means the music here doesn’t strike as particularly distinctive.
Nelson’s voice remains the most enduring aspect of Band of Brothers. At times, he barely sings above a whisper, often he’s conversing rather than singing, and his voice has a cracked and creased quality to it. It’s like your grandfather telling stories of his past: his first love, his biggest mistakes and regrets. He’s at his most interesting when he’s singing with a reflective defiance, such as in album opener Bring it On, and single The Wall. In the former, Nelson speaks of meeting adversity head-on, in the latter, he admits to himself how that’s affected him over the years.
Elsewhere, Wives and Girlfriends finds him in a more upbeat mood as he recounts his past relationships. It’s tongue-in-cheek, and shows another side. There are plenty of love songs on this album, however, they aren’t half as interesting as the more personal pieces.
Band of Brothers might not contain anything as immediately iconic as On the Road Again, or as weirdly wonderful as Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, but Willie Nelson still remains a distinct and idiosyncratic voice, and his writing has enough humour and personality to remain engaging.
Band of Brothers was released on 17th June 2014. For further information or to order the album visit Willie Nelson’s website here.
Watch the video for Band of Brothers here: