Pancho and Lefty ( Townes Van Zant )
Sunday Morning Coming Down ( Kris Kristofferson)
2 Kool 2 Be 4-gotten (Lucinda Williams)
LA Freeway (Guy Clark)
Magdalene (Guy Clark)
Bucking Horse Moon (Tom Russell)
Seminole Wind (John Anderson)
Starting Over ( Chris Stapleton)
Highwayman ( The Highwaymen)
Like many people, my first exposure to this song was via the Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard version that was a hit in the 1980s. At the time I didn't really think much of it. There is nothing wrong with that version of course but it wasn't the sort of thing that was going to reach out to a 16 year old punk rocker who listened to The Great Rock n Roll Swindle LP over and over and over. Many years later I was introduced to the version by the songwriter, Townes Van Zant. Van Zant quickly became one of my favorite songwriters. He was a unique songwriter and I highly recommend watching the documentary Be Here To Love Me. I wanted to do another song by Van Zant called The Silver Ships of Andilar but didn't get a version done in time.
Kris Kristofferson is retired these days but he was a songwriter, musician, actor and writer. He was also a pilot who famously landed a helicopter on Johnny Cash's lawn to sell him this song. He also told off Toby Keith, well up in his 70s in front of a number of witnesses in what is one of my favorite "show biz" stories. You can read it HERE. Kristofferson isn't just a great writer but a fascinating human being. His work and politics also stand the notion of the right wing flag waving country musician on its head. Unlike most of those people he actually wore a uniform. He was a captain in the U.S. Army Rangers.
I regret this is the only woman songwriter here. This isn't due to misogyny but rather that the songs I tried to do by artists like Jessie Coulter and Dolly Parton? Let's just say they did not work well with my voice. You may think this one doesn't either! Lucinda Williams is, of course, a critical darling and justly so. I tried to think of which of her records were "best" but I just couldn't narrow it down that way because Ramblin and her eponymous record are great but so are three recordings that came out between 1992 and 2001 (Sweet Old World, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and Essence). These last three are special to me personally. They were records that bring me right back to that time every time I hear them. I am sure you have records where you had a favorite song when you first listened to them. Then, a day or a week later, you had a new favorite. A month after that a new one. Ultimately you realize every song is great. All three of these records are that to me.
Both these songs are by the great Guy Clark. I cannot think of an American songwriter as consistently brilliant as Clark. He has multiple records that are absolute perfection (notably Old No. 1, which features L.A. Freeway). I didn't intend to do two songs by any individual but I could not help myself. A number of years ago, while working for a now defunct music gear website I went to Guy Clark's house in Nashville and interviewed him. He was a really interesting guy (most of those videos are up on Youtube, I thought about having most of that stuff taken down but I didn't want the Clark stuff to vanish).
Speaking of artists I got to interview (none of these wound up on Youtube I don't think), there is Tom Russell. Russell, if I recall correctly was discovered by a member of the Grateful Dead when he was a cab driver in NYC. He apparently sang some of his songs. Russell is also an excellent painter. He is one of those lesser known but nonetheless fantastic songwriters.
For a lover of the Florida Everglades this song is both heart wrenching and prophetic (it came out in the 80s ). I could have easily opted for another great song on this same record, Straight Tequila Night. I do not know LOT about John Anderson but I do love this record and other singles Ive heard from him over the years.
I wanted to have someone NEW on this recording too. I asked around and several people suggested Chris Stapleton. I admit I'd never heard of him. After listening to his music I thought "Hey, I'd like to see this guy play"....I didn't realize he was playing at Wrigley Field and the cheap seats were like $180. I'm sure he is worth it and one of the openers was Mavis Staples but I just didn't have the cash. I thought this was a lovely song and I encourage you to go check out his version below.
Highwayman is a song written for THE Highwaymen by songwriter, Jimmy Webb. Webb has written a ton of great songs including Up, Up and Away. The Highwaymen were, of course, a country super group featuring Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. Kind of like a Rock super group with Elton John, David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney.