willie nelson


Thursday, April 16, 2015
Willie Nelson – “She’s Not For You” from Across the Borderline (1993 Columbia)


One of my greatest joys in doing this blog is that writing about music forces me to do research, which in turn reveals and fills in gaps in my knowledge about artists/albums/eras/etc. For instance: I know this album inside and out as a result of it being in the agreed-upon CD pile at a used bookstore I used to work at in Chicago. This was over a decade ago, and I guess back then it never occurred to me that the album itself was over a decade old at that point. I think I maybe thought it had just come out, which, in retrospect, doesn’t make a lot of sense, given that our stock in trade was used merchandise.

What I also didn’t know was that this recording of “She’s Not For You” is a work-up of a 1965 single which was released on 1973’s Shotgun WillieEssentially, that means that was a remake of a song that was roughly twenty years old. I don’t think that I’m the first to remark on this, but I remember being a kid and thinking about twenty years in the past, and it seemed like almost a different epoch. For instance, in 1993 I was fifteen, and the idea of 1973 seemed almost inconceivable. Now that I’m older, not only does 1993 not seem quite so incredibly distant, neither does 1973, even though it was five years before I was born.

I’m not sure if that’s a function of how perspective changes with age, or how changes in culture occur with varying speed, and neither am I sure whether this video helps to illuminate any of the above myseries, but here it is, Willie Nelson on the Porter Wagoner Show, one half century ago:

I’m not going to try to hide my bias: I much prefer the album version from Across the Borderline to the above television appearance, but if I’m really being honest, it’s not so incredibly different from the Shotgun Willie version. Then again, who cares? All that means is that they’re both pretty great, and if you’re looking for someone to disparage Willie Nelson on the internet, well, you’re going to have to keep clicking, because it’s not going to be me.

This is a great song for sipping lemonade and/or whiskey and thinking about all that can go right and wrong in relationships. Across the Borderline benefits from a recording style that really shows off Willie’s guitar tone. I have often felt like he doesn’t get enough credit for his incredible prowess on the guitar, but it could also be that I’m not paying enough attention to the right critics. At any rate, his guitar sounds like butter on this track, and there’s a subtle wash of tremolo over the whole thing that’s enough to make someone weak in the knees. He takes a guitar solo, and it’s like he knows exactly what to play and exactly what not to play. He’s technically proficient to be sure, but he’s also subtle, with a definite jazz sensibility, and it’s just perfect.

He’s also, near as I can tell, not dead. I only mention it because I don’t want for you to be taken in by any internet hoaxes.