Reviews

Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ray Price: Last of the Breed [DVD]

These three graying men are the true, diehard troubadours. This concert DVD will surely bless your little heart if you happen to be the last of another breed: the traditional country music fan.


Ray Price

Last of the Breed

Display Artist: Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ray Price
Label: A&E
US Release Date: 2007-09-25
Amazon
iTunes

You cannot fully confirm whether guys like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price are the last of their breed until you put them up next to, say, Shania Twain. Whereas Twain is sometimes more aerobics instructor than country singer, these three graying men are the true, diehard troubadours. This concert DVD will surely bless your little heart if you happen to be the last of another breed: the traditional country music fan.

There’s a ton of music on this disc, too. A whole 35 songs! The show begins with crooner Ray Price. Dressed in suit and tie, and singing with eyes just as tired as his songs are sad, Price is one class act. It doesn’t matter if his songs are old (“San Antonio Rose”) or relatively new (“Help Me Make It Through The Night”), nobody pours out bitter country whiskey better than Price.

Although the DVD’s marquee doesn’t list it, this trio’s backing band is the amazing Asleep At The Wheel. And between Price and Merle Haggard’s sets, Ray Benson and the boys inject a little swing into the show with “Route 66” and “Miles and Miles of Texas”. Asleep At The Wheel is the last of an even smaller breed, Western swing stylists, but thank goodness they’re keeping this toe-tapping musical genre’s flame alive.

Merle Haggard begins his eight-song solo set by continuing the Western swing vibe with “Take Me Back To Tulsa”. He goes on to include many of his best songs, including “Silver Wings”, “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink”, “Are The Good Times Really Over For Good?”, “Big City” and “Sing Me Back Home”. The Hag is next joined by one of his favorite duet partners, Willie Nelson, for “Pancho and Lefty”, “Reasons To Quit”, “Ramblin’ Fever”, and a final pairing on the new balled “Back To Earth”. “Pancho and Lefty”, the Townes Van Zant song, is timeless. It’s the story of a bad guy that the law respected too much to kill even when they had the chance, which resonates every time it’s sung, especially by skilled storytellers like Haggard and Nelson.

Before Nelson digs into a set of his own material, his friend Freddy Powers sings “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter”. Nelson then throws a few ‘must sings’ into his set, including “On The Road Again” and “Always on My Mind”. But he also inserts a couple funny new songs. One called “Superman” admits that he’s not nearly as strong and seemingly omniscient as he used to be. He follows this up with “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore”. Because Nelson concerts can be extremely predictable, it is always a big treat to hear a few fresh songs.

This package also includes an “extra” interview with Nelson, Haggard, and Price in the back of Willie’s bus, conducted by Benson. There’s also a personally guided tour of Willie’s bus by the man himself as well as a photo gallery section.

It’s convenient to view these three performers as country music legends. But, especially in the cases of Nelson and Haggard, these are more accurately American music icons. You might be surprised at just how many rock players look up to Haggard. And Nelson has sung duets with almost every genre representative imaginable. This DVD presents these significant musical players in all their understated glory. Unlike many hip-hop stars of today, who are as schooled in self-promotion as they are adept at beats and rhymes, Price, Haggard, and Nelson always appear humbled and honored by the opportunity to present their songs. But they have every right to brag about themselves, if they ever chose to do so. They just don’t.

Willie Nelson may have had the big it with “On The Road Again”, but all three primary participants share this road warrior’s tale. I imagine they’ll tour until they die; they just don’t know any other life. But fortunately, this package captures this trio on one of the better stops along this seemingly endless journey.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.

Music

Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.