Willie Nelson revisits his classics with new perspective on “Bluegrass”

Willie Nelson, dressed in black, faces the camera with Trigger in his lap

Willie Nelson
Photo: Pamela Springsteen

Even as he rolls on into what has been, even by Willie Nelson’s standards, an extraordinarily busy 90th year, the Texas icon is taking a moment to reflect on his roots.

His next record — staggeringly, the man’s 151st overall release — titled Bluegrass, arrived Friday, and finds Nelson, backed by an airtight bluegrass ensemble, revisiting some of his classic compositions, like “Good Hearted Woman,” which Nelson co-wrote with Waylon Jennings.

Bluegrass (which features album art created by Nelson’s son, Micah) is produced by frequent collaborator Buddy Cannon, who helped assemble a murderer’s row of musical talent to back Nelson up: Bassist Barry Bales, banjo player Ron Block, fiddler Aubrey Haynie, dobro player Rob Ickes, mandolin player Dan Tyminski and harmonica ace Mickey Raphael are among those featured on the dozen songs. The album arrives on (naturally) blue-hued vinyl on Sept. 29.

Per press materials, Bluegrass is intended as “a salute to the Appalachian old-time string band music which crystallized into a genre and was given a name by Kentucky songwriter/performer/recording artist Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys.” Some of the songs from Nelson’s extensive back catalog being dusted off here include “On the Road Again,” “Yesterday’s Wine,” “Bloody Mary Morning” and more.

Nelson has yet more on deck before 2023 is all said and done, including additional tour dates on his Outlaw Music Festival tour, which continues through Oct. 15. (If you missed the Dallas stop on June 30, your next closest opportunity is the cluster of dates in the southeastern US, beginning in October.)

He’ll also add to his ever-growing roster of books, with the Oct. 31 release of “Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs,” which will share anecdotes and insights behind the lyrics of 160 of Nelson’s favorite songs, as well as never-before-seen photos. And on Nov. 3, Nelson will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on X (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.