Willie Nelson

Live from Austin TX

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This date from 1990 features Willie Nelson and the Family Band in fine form. Live from Austin TX reflects so many of the audience and band favorites in such a hometown setting, it would be hard to imagine it not working like a charm. According to Austin City Limits producer Terry Lickona's brief liner notes, Nelson was the first-ever guest on the public television-syndicated program back in 1974 for its pilot episode. It wouldn't matter if Nelson sang nursery rhymes in front of this audience. But it's tight and well-rehearsed, yet there's more than a degree of spontaneity here in tracks like "Stay a Little Longer," with a killer Nelson guitar break and a tough rock & roll riff in the bridge. Then there's the medley of "Funny," "Crazy," and "Night Life" that's mercurial, slippery, and a tiny bit ragged. The reading of "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)," here is choice, as is the live version of "Always on My Mind," a song that, remarkably, still has a lot of life in it despite its being performed countless thousands of times. The only drawback here is the sound. It's actually a bit disheartening considering how fine the performance is. One would have imagined that the sonics would have been fairly top-notch by 1990, but not so here. It's a bit flat and lifeless, kept alive only by the fiery performance of the band. Too bad. Though this is not one to recommend to someone getting started with Nelson, or a casual fan, hardcore fans will have to have this despite the shortcomings of fidelity. It's a good 'un.

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