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Red Headed Stranger

Willie Nelson

1975

Buy At Rough Trade
Red Headed Stranger
Album Summary

Red Headed Stranger is the 18th studio album by American outlaw country singer Willie Nelson, released in 1975. Following the success of his recordings with Atlantic Records, coupled with the negotiating skills of his manager, Neil Reshen, Nelson signed a contract with Columbia Records, the label that gave him total creative control over his works. The concept for the album was inspired by the "Tale of the Red Headed Stranger", a song that Nelson used to play as a disc jockey on his program in Fort Worth, Texas. After signing with Columbia, he decided to record the song, and arranged the details during his return to Austin, Texas, from a trip to Colorado. It was recorded at low cost at Autumn Sound Studios in Garland, Texas. The songs featured sparse arrangements, largely limited to Nelson's guitar, piano, and drums. Nelson presented the finished material to Columbia executives, who were dubious about releasing an album that they at first thought was a demo. However, Nelson had creative control, so no further production was added. A concept album, Red Headed Stranger is about a fugitive on the run from the law after killing his wife and her lover. The content consists of songs with brief poetic lyrics and arrangements of older material such as Fred Rose's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain", Wolfe Gilbert's "Down Yonder", and Juventino Rosas' "O'er the Waves". Despite Columbia's doubts and the limited instrumentation, Red Headed Stranger was a blockbuster among country music and mainstream audiences. It was certified multiple-platinum, and made Nelson one of the most recognized artists in country music. The cover of "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain", released as a single before the album, became Nelson's first number-one hit. The title of the album became a lasting nickname for Nelson. It was ranked number 183 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and number one on CMT's 40 Greatest Albums in Country Music. In 2010, it was inducted to the National Recording Registry. In 1986, Nelson starred as the Red Headed Stranger in a movie of the same name, based on the story of the album. The album has had a strong cultural impact; the song "Time of the Preacher" was used often in the British television miniseries Edge of Darkness, and its lyrics were used in the first issue of the comic Preacher.

Wikipedia

Rating

3.34

Votes

12813

Genres

  • Country

Reviews

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Mon Apr 18 2022
4

What a great album, and what a wonderful voice. (I mean, it's Willie Nelson, is anyone surprised?) This is exactly the type of album that makes me glad I'm doing this project. Because while it's not something I'd seek out, and I don't universally adore every track, it's extremely worth the listen, and I would listen through it again if I'm in the right mood. The album is calming, and oddly a good balm for loneliness but without being whiny. It feels like a chat with an old friend: mellow, reassuring, maybe even a little bit commiserating. And, above all, worth your time. Fave track: Hands on the Wheel

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Sun Oct 10 2021
5

Willie Nelson bucked the system and instead of putting out over produced Nashville drivel, made a simple, stripped down country record structured as a concept album. Red Headed Stranger is the story of a preacher who kills his wife and lover and explores themes of loss, guilt, and longing. It’s exactly what needed to be made at the time

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Wed Sep 22 2021
5

Somehow, I've never heard a single Willie Nelson track, knowingly, up until this point. I love this! Understated playing, great storytelling and a voice that holds lots of appeal for me. He deserves to be known better on these shores than as the old boy who likes smoking big doinks. Superb!

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Fri Oct 15 2021
5

I didn't think I'd like this, but I really enjoyed it. There's something about this type of 1970s country music, the trad and pseudo trad styles. Everything feels cosy and comforting, like you're sitting in a bar while yung Willie sings away in the corner. This is the kind of album that I would happily listen to again, if the mood took me.

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Thu Oct 14 2021
5

A perfect concept album. Country western storytelling at its best.

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Tue Sep 26 2023
5

I haven’t had much experience listening to country but honestly this album was a really good introduction. It has such chill vibes and a comforting aura perfect album to listen to whilst reading in bed for the evening All the tracks were iconic so this album has to be 5 stars for me If all country music is this iconic then I think I’ve been sleeping on this genre

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Mon May 09 2022
5

I'd love to hang out with Willie for a day, get stoned and listen to him tell stories, perhaps a song or two. Shotgun Willie is my go to album but this one has gotten a lot plays as well. Albums like this make you realize not all country music is shit.

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Thu Jul 14 2022
5

Generally not my type of music but damn if Willie isn't incredibly talented. The closing track on this album was beautiful, just the piano and harmonica. The piano was really a standout the whole way through. The album tells a great story, and Willie is a master at his craft. Probably the only 5 star country album I'll have this list, but if any deserves it this is the one.

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Thu Jan 12 2023
5

the EIGHTEENTH album by willie wtf?! Also didn't realize this was "outlaw country". Shit is great great great

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Thu Aug 18 2022
1

The main thing i know about willie is he likes to smoke da 'erb. he seems like a nice guy but i if this is the kind of stuff he writes when he's stoned he should probably try a different drug. maybe i never smoked weed properly and the real weed professionals get so baked they time travel to the 1800s? Smoked so much that you think you're pre electricity.

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Tue May 24 2022
5

A perfect lazy Sunday album. Every track has a little surprise waiting to be discovered. It's a sign of everything wrong with the music industry that Columbia tried to re-produce this album because they thought it was too stripped down. Best track: Red Headed Stranger

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Wed Jul 20 2022
5

I love you, Willie. Thank you for keeping it 100% authentic throughout your career. Also, a little bump for a sweet song about Denver!

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Thu Sep 15 2022
5

Murderers with pretty singing voices should be allowed to get away with it

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Thu Apr 25 2024
5

He’s Country royalty at this point, responsible for changing the genre and for broadening the conversation about an outlaw’s place in the mainstream. This record is at the heart of that impact and that influence. Had Nelson been known for this record alone, he’d still be some kind of legend. It’s a simple but profound song cycle that’s certainly semi-autobiographical. It should be noted that Willie Nelson is a triple threat: songwriter, singer/performer, guitar player. His overall persona adds another layer—a combined aesthetic, one part from the Nashville machine, the other from the outskirts of Texas, one part stoner-hippie, one part patriot-cowboy. It’s why he’s embraced by so many from so many walks of life.

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Tue May 07 2024
5

Melancholy country ballads, a classic sound with the godlike Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain as the ultimate example [EDIT: was low-key looking forward to getting this again, and it did not disappoint. Bumped up to the top and purchased - his voice and the material are perfectly suited, and even though the vibrato trick is basically the same on every track it gets me EVERY TIME. Could be the only country album you ever need, just great]

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Tue May 07 2024
5

This is witchcraft: Nelson selects some other artists' songs, including a couple of famous ones, tops them up with four or five of his own, runs his matter-of-fact patter through them, and this 30-odd minute amalgamation becomes myth, and utterly his own.

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Fri May 03 2024
4

first listen cool man sings stories at a campfire

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Mon Dec 11 2023
2

I really wish I knew why country music doesn't click for me. I have attempted to listen to this before. It was fine, but I am unlikely to return.

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Mon Aug 16 2021
5

Otra sorpresa. Disco perfecto.

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Mon Oct 18 2021
5

Душа, жизнь, ковбойска житя

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Sat Nov 20 2021
5

GOOD dog walking music. It isn't too intensely Willie Nelson, it is the perfect amount. I like the balance between singing and instruments.

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Wed Jan 05 2022
5

What on first impression feels unfocused, random, rough and incomplete you will then learn is the result and product of Willie's artistic control. Sparse and demo-like, it is never dwelling on one idea. Instead it is constantly moving onward with its narrative.

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Fri Feb 04 2022
5

1st time of listening. Love Willie Nelson, his lyrical aptitude as a writer is clear from his back catalogue but what I like about this is that he has developed, through others songs, a wonderful, simple narrative about the red headed stranger. Love the title track and "Denver" and of course the recurring "Time Of The Preacher" "O'er The Waves" (Which to me is reminiscent of The Harry Lime Theme) and the honky-tonk Piano (Played, I believe by Willie's sister Bobbie) of down yonder. A tale of betrayal redemption and love and stripped down to the instruments with Willie's distinctive voice being the main star! Love it and rightfully in this list in my opinion.

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Sat Feb 12 2022
5

A classic. A must hear for Texans.

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Sun Feb 13 2022
5

Exceptional album, a classic. Tight, minimalist compositions, with strong songwriting from Nelson. Not a bad song on here. Fave Songs: Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, Red Headed Stranger, Hands on the Wheel, Can I Sleep in Your Arms, Time of the Preacher

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Sun Feb 20 2022
5

Good grief this here is one heck of a beautiful album. The piano interlude on Just As I Am and Can I Sleep in Your Arms near blew me out of the dang water. Such a strutty little bass line on Remember Me. Outlaw country with a tender gentle heart.

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Tue Mar 29 2022
5

Beautiful album. Loved every track.

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Tue Apr 05 2022
5

Amazing album. So minimal and clean.

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Fri Jul 15 2022
5

Great album, added it a few playlists

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Wed Jul 20 2022
5

I always love tight, story-driven concept albums. Add Willie’s impeccable delivery, and you’ve got an instant classic for me.

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Tue Aug 02 2022
5

I'm surprised Nashville hasn't built a Mount Rushmore of Country Music. Seems like something they'd be all freaking over. We'll do the easy work for them here in terms of selecting the 4 figures on Mount Country Music. Johnny Cash and Hank Williams are slam-dunk no-brainers. And I believe the third obvious choice is one Willie Hugh Nelson. They'd probably complain about having to put a bandana on his head, and they'll be jokes about how Willie should also be displayed smoking a joint, but no Mount Rushmore is complete with him. The argument could begin and end with the fact that Willie Nelson wrote "Crazy". Mic drop. And if that's not enough, allow me to present to you a concept album he recorded entitled "Red Headed Stranger". Great simple storytelling music that showcases what made Willie Nelson a legend, including the quintessential version of "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" where Ol' Willie even one-ups Hank Williams. As for that 4th person on the Mount Rushmore of Country Music...the internet would absolutely explode if it isn't Dolly Parton. Fuck that. I'd take Loretta Lynn or Emmylou Harris over Dolly. Also acceptable: George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard, and an argument could be made for Patsy Cline. It'd be fitting to have her next to the pot smoking, bandana wearing hillbilly/hippie who wrote her signature song.

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Sat Aug 06 2022
5

I grew up hearing this album in the background, but its spartan production and mature themes went over my head and I didn't appreciate it. I haven't heard it since my pre-teen years. Returning to it now is like discovering an entirely new album. The music is arresting and beautiful, the album filled with suspense, tragedy and heartache, and I loved it. While murder ballad albums tend to turn me off, this had a very different feel and focused on a range of emotions other than anger and revenge. It is surprisingly wistful. How fortunate are we that Willie Nelson had negotiated a contract that allowed him to release this album. It is easy to see how record producers would demand that more production be added to this album. I imagine that would have greatly diminished the power of this album. Red Headed Stranger is an affecting work I will listen to again and again.

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Sat Aug 06 2022
5

As with the album Stardust, I am again struck by the deliberateness of Willie Nelson's music. Every note, every tempo, the order of the songs...all show a clear intent and purpose, nothing ad libbed or left to chance. Despite the murderous themes in the lyrics, I feel safe with Willie at the helm. This is music that makes me feel good.

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Tue Aug 23 2022
5

Brilliant, a country concept album with a coherent story and great tunes. One of the reviews said it was "the Sgt pepper's of country", which sounds about right!

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Thu Aug 25 2022
5

I feel like he's got a way better voice than you ever really realize

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Sat Sep 03 2022
5

Solid willie—didnt know he was this good!

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Tue Sep 06 2022
5

With a mixture of short tales and epic tomes, Red Headed Stranger is a exploration of infidelity, murder and desertion in a manner made sparsely and simply that can only benefit Shotgun Willie; any minute longer and it would have been sabotage. It is not surprising to know how this became a beloved album in Willie's canon and an enduring hallmark in country. The complex feelings of the outlaw, encapsulated by the songs that expresses his feelings that flowed through his heart; a tale as old and well told as time.

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Mon Oct 17 2022
5

Checks every box possible for a country album. It’s a concept album, underrated and beautiful guitar, good production, nostalgic, influential, album length fits the style of music, tells a story, there’s a flow to song order, great album cover, beautiful ending.

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Tue Oct 18 2022
5

Even if you're not a country fan (and I'm most definitely not), it's hard to deny Willie his due. The man is a great songwriter and a legendary performer. This super stripped down album really showcases the emotional range of his voice and I couldn't be more here for it. Which is REALLY surprising given my aforementioned dislike for the genre. Great album.

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Wed Nov 02 2022
5

Oh my GOD I am so taken with this album!! I already love Willie Nelson but due to my old way of listening to music excluding entire albums, I never listened to this album. I LOVE a concept album, and I love some good country story-telling. I don't always love it coming from a man but in this case it's golden. I am really excited by this story and I will definitely watch the film soon. I even love the instrumental tracks like Down Yonder coming right after Denver where he sings of a chance meeting in a tavern and then the dancing and with this music I can picture a saloon and a pair dancing to this music it's magic! I love thinking about the old un-finished songs which inspired Willie to write this whole concept album and tell this whole story, it's super inspiring. Also loving the simplicity of guitar piano and drums and his beaut voice.

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Tue Nov 08 2022
5

labai grazu. Patiko paklausyt toki stiliu. 'Time of the Preacher' keliavo i playlistĄĄĄ

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Mon Nov 28 2022
5

This is a very special album to me. It reminds me of my father more than any other album. I have a somewhat complex relationship with my father so having this as a positive association with him is a rare and bittersweet treasure. I remember listening to this and "Willie and Family Live" on many road trips with him as a kid. I would go so far as to say that this is the best narrative driven concept album of all time. The fact that it is also a country album makes it all that much more spectacular an achievement. Country has always been more of a singles driven market, but Willie bravely constructed an amazing outlier of an album that had more in common with the AOR of its time, weaving an enchanting tale of betrayal and tragedy. It has recurring musical themes that tie it all together and many instrumental pieces to allow it to breath. In fact, I think it is those instrumental pieces that are the reason this album is so effective. It forces the listener to have to emotionally engage with the music itself, rather than through being fed more narrative in the lyrics. The listener has to connect the dots in their mind. Willie doesn't overdo it or spoonfeed you. He gives you just the right amount of story to set the scene and no more. I feel that this is not only a stroke of genius, but it shows that Willie has faith in, and respect for, his audience. Listening to this as a kid in the passenger seat while my dad drive through the night, I found this absolutely spellbinding. Still do.

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Tue Dec 13 2022
5

Willie is just plain awesome. A great voice and music. This is the kind of music I like to listen to on April day where it's not quite warm yet, and it's overcast and rainy. It just works somehow. It also sounds great in December...or any time.

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Tue Dec 20 2022
5

Love Willie, loved this one.

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Thu Jan 12 2023
5

Sweet lord why can't all country sound like this. Not a blue jean nor a pick up truck in sight.

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Fri Jan 13 2023
5

This is a quintessential Country album to listen to. Show the naysayers this album and they’ll soon turn around and be more open of Country!

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Fri Jan 13 2023
5

I loved this, I really like willie nelsons music

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Mon Jan 23 2023
5

Listened to it twice. Loved it. Not even sure what to say.

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Fri Jan 27 2023
5

Best album I have discovered through this journey so far. Great concept album with a simplicity to it. Dolby Atmos bring it to another level. Was on repeat all day. Super album.

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Tue Jan 31 2023
5

Willie is such a good song writer. His songs are like a warm hug. This makes me want to write my own concept album.

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Wed Feb 01 2023
5

This was great. I loved the concept and everything.

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Sun Feb 12 2023
5

This is a quintessential country album. Willie Nelson is one of my favorite singers for his distinctive voice and the songs are worthy of it. I especially love the title track for its storytelling, which is really interesting. A lot of the tracks are short and there are a lot of instrumental songs, too, giving it a nice, quick feel.

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Mon Feb 13 2023
5

Great album from Willie with some amazing instrumentation. Classic country sounds. Love it.

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Fri Jun 10 2022
5

Can’t beat this for country. I know a lot of these (most? All?) are covered standards, but this is a tremendous album.

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Fri Feb 24 2023
5

So surprised by this one. Shame on me for my undeserved biases. From the soulful singing to the amazing musicality I couldn't believe I had discounted Mr. Nelson as country twang.

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Tue Feb 28 2023
5

Concept albums aren’t only for psychedelic rock! Blue Eyes Cryin in the Rain is one of the prettiest songs I’ve ever heard. I’ll keep coming back to this.

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Tue Mar 07 2023
5

This might have been the best album yet from this project. I will be revisiting this many times in the future, which I can't say for most of this. Pretty close to perfect.

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Thu Mar 09 2023
5

I love Willie Nelson. So take this rating with a grain of salt.

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Mon Mar 13 2023
5

Really nice evening listening. Who could fault Willie ever.

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Tue Mar 21 2023
5

My only complaint is that some tracks weren’t long enough. He seemed to have about half a concept album and finished the rest with some filler tracks that could have really enhanced the album if more time was put into them. Everything else was perfect and I can’t imagine any other issues someone could have. His singing, as always, is beautiful. Instrumentation was tight and I even enjoyed the instrumentals. One of my favorites of his. This was Willie’s second album of the year and, to this day, it is common for him to release at least an album a year. I can only imagine if he took a break from pumping out album after album and took a pause to really craft one incredible album. 5/5

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Sat Apr 01 2023
5

I don’t know what I could write here that has not already been written. This album is perfect and it’s beautiful. The mood it sets is so evocative that this album feels much longer than it’s runtime, but in a good way. You are transported when you listen to it.

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Mon May 01 2023
5

wonderful album from america's troubador. 5 stars.

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Sun May 07 2023
5

Feels like a old country tale told by a campfire. One of the best examples of storytelling through music in all of music.

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Wed May 31 2023
5

All time classic country great, and cemented a star becoming a legend.

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Wed Jun 07 2023
5

This is an awesome album. Vocals are impeccable. Blue eyes crying in the rain is an all time great song.

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Sat Jun 10 2023
5

This is what I love about this album generator. I would never have listened to Willie Nelson by choice, Country Music is a genre that I always considered as something to despise, lots of "Get Along Lil' Doggie" and Dolly Parton. The closest I would ever normally get to Country would be parody songs about families all dying and the crops dying, etc. This album has opened my eyes to music that I never realised existed. Sparse and simple, relaxing, laid back, a concept album that tells a coherent story about love, betrayal, revenge, and redemption, all tied up nicely and bookended with some outstanding piano pieces. Loved it.

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Sun Jun 18 2023
5

Album 78 of 1001 Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger Rating : 5 / 5 Favorite Track: This is a remarkable album. I went back and forth with this one. My first feeling was that it is under produced. After some research I found that I sounded just like the record company when Willie presented them the completed project. They said it sounded like a demo. I was won over, as well. Willie did Willie and he did it like nobody else could. This album grows on you.

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Mon Jun 19 2023
5

That was entrancing. I listened to it three times over and still felt this weird calming spell. Magical, really. I guess that’s what smoking all that weed can do for country music.

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Sat Jul 01 2023
5

Used to listen to this years ago. Love it. So simple, stripped down and just about perfect.

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Mon Jul 24 2023
5

A true country western album from one of the best to ever do it. No frills, no flash, just good old western story telling. The song writing is authentic and charming and sad in just the right way. Absolutely required listening

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Tue Jul 25 2023
5

Tight, Americana country music from the storytelling singer and guitar player. With a boyish voice and a beautiful acoustic, Willie Nelson invites any listener to enjoy the stories of an older, less fickle America. Still religious prone with a taste for the nostalgic, but love and heartbreak are the centerpieces of American worth. Much of the album is covers, but what sets this album apart is how genuine and peaceful it is sung.

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Mon Aug 07 2023
5

Bare bones country. Absolutely no fat on this one

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Wed Aug 16 2023
5

Had no idea this was such a cohesive album. Absolutely loved the ‘Time of the Preacher’ theme running throughout. Adding this to the regular rotation.

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Thu Aug 17 2023
5

Fantastic album. Always heard of Willie Nelson, but never took a dive into a full album until this one. Was blown away by the songwriting and Willie’s singing. Top 3 songs off the album for me are Red Headed Stranger, Down Yonder, and Can I Sleep in Your Arms. -Klep

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Fri Sep 08 2023
5

BL: Willie Nelson’s previous album was really good I thought: this one seems to be originals as oppose to covers so more interested to hear this one. I like the album cover a lot. AL1: first time round I enjoyed the listen. Very honky tonk. I tried to decipher the story behind it but found it very difficult to follow. Round about 2/3rds of the way through I realised the album was on shuffle play. So I’ll give it another listen the right way around and see what I think this time. As of first time around it’s a 3/5 AL2: wow. What a way to do a storytelling album. Very impressed by this. The story was fun, the juxtaposition of short and long tracks gives this a very ahead of it’s time feeling. I really really sincerely enjoyed this, I’ve never been a massive country fan bar Jason Molina but I’m starting to get roped into certain aspects of the singer/songwriter material. Very very enjoyable FT: “Medley: Blue Rock Montana”, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”, “Denver”, “Bandera” 5/5

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Sat Sep 23 2023
5

Incredible concept album. Brave, stripped down production. The genius is in the feeling and simplicity.

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Mon Sep 25 2023
5

9/10. Love some Willie Nelson

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Sat Oct 07 2023
5

Great! I'm a sucker for albums that have a story. My only real issue is the "disjointed" nature of said story. But still great. The album did sound a little demo-ish, but I like the low production style with Willie Nelsons voice.

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Tue Oct 10 2023
5

I really liked it. I want to listen to more of this type of music

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Thu Oct 12 2023
5

Willie Nelson is one of the kings of outlaw country. His ability to produce poetry which he puts to music which is simple in its delivery and isn't overproduced like most country music today is an art. The music on this album is simple, and unpolished, but those impurities are what make this such a stellar album, and they are why Willie is such a force in the industry. The overarching story that is woven through this 33 minute album is one of love and loss. It is a beautiful album, and is perfect for sitting and listening to cover to cover. Can I Sleep In Your Arms shares its tune with Charlie Poole's classic: Can I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight Mister. Poole's song holds a special place in my heart as it reminds me of my grandfather. He used to love to sing that song. So hearing that familiar tune again, even though the lyrics were slightly different, brought on a wave of nostalgia. I'm thankful for those memories of Grampie. Overall, a fantastic album today. I've always liked Willie's raspy voice and spoken delivery. It is immediately recognizable. I've never listened to this album before, but am very glad I did today. It will be put into regular rotation from now on! Favourite songs: Can I Sleep In Your Arms, Red Headed Stranger, I Couldn't Believe It Was True, Hands on the Wheel, Medley: Blue Rock Montana/Red Headed Stranger, Remember Me (When the Candle Lights Are Gleaming), Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain Least favourite songs: if forced to pick, Just As I Am 5/5

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Fri Oct 13 2023
5

A fantastic country & western album, stripped down to the essentials. I loved the whole thing.

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