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Willie Nelson - The Ghost, Part Two

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Artist: Willie Nelson

Album: The Ghost, Part Two

Label: Masked Weasel

Review date: Jan. 15, 2006

For those of us – whether televangelists or environmentalist doomsayers – arguing that the apocalypse is extant, it’s possible to imagine Willie Nelson playing an integral role in the revelation, the unveiling of hidden things, the witnessing of the messiah on a mundane plane. Not that Nelson is that messiah, though he and God do share some characteristics: their lives seem equally durable, they enjoy similarly tenuous relationships with the state (though it has been hard to pin Him with tax evasion or weed possession), and they’re equally beloved across regional, class, social and economic lines.

Nelson’s music also enjoys the qualities of the divine brought down low, experienced on a quotidian scale, whether in the form of melancholy, ecstasy or revelation itself. Part Two in The Masked Weasel’s tripartite The Ghost series is an excellent collection of unadorned ballads and slide-soaked yearnings, coated in a veneer of Nelson’s conversational melodies and romantic soliloquies.

Nelson seems almost reluctant to put on a show, which is the true mark of a master showman. The songs here are not of the Hank Williams swooning variety, nor of the Johnny Cash hard times type. Nelson seems content to speak softly with hid head down. His frankness is always slightly coy, his cooing demur, his heartbreak shrugged off with an ironic boast about a new car on “A Moment Isn’t Very Long,” but the irony only lingers for as long as the listener believes it. He also exhibits a degree of empathy for subjects other than himself, a dramatic device largely forgotten in later country music. On “I Feel Sorry For Him,” he professes his sorrow for his agonist in love; having gotten the woman, he immediately reaches out to the man who lost her heart, who loved her “almost as much as me.” Such populist romantics convey a heavenly feeling of the highest order.

By Alexander Provan

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