The iconic Willie Nelson began his career crafting songs for others to perform. Songs like Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” But pretty soon the powers that be on Nashville's Music Row began to see a marketability in Nelson. Not only were his songs top drawer, but he had a unique, pleasing vocal style. So he began cutting his own records.
During those days in the early 1960’s, neither the writer nor the artists had a lot of say so in regard to how the finished record would sound. It was all done by big wig producers who had developed a formula that was working in country radio, and they were loading all of the records with a wall of sound - strings, horns, and female backing vocalists.
Willie played the game. He had no choice. That is until the early seventies when he made the decision to simply retire from music, rather than have his artistic freedom stifled. Of course, we all know what happened next.
Naked Willie compiles some of Nelson’s best material recorded between 1966 and 1970, and effectively strips away the heavy production elements, creating a sound much like that of Willie of today.
What we are allowed to see, without all of the fluff, is just what a truly great songwriter Willie was, and is. From the heartache of “The Party’s Over” to the stark loneliness of “The Ghost,” these are lyrics reminiscent of both Dylan and Springsteen. The deceptions of love in “Johnny One Time” further explores the whole human condition, while “Jimmy’s Road” is a brilliant anti-Vietnam story.
Almost like a brand new Willie album, only surrounded by a few ghosts of the past, Naked Willie is a real treat.
-Michael Buffalo Smith