Willie Nelson’s New Album is a Family Affair

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Willie Nelson’s latest studio album, The Willie Nelson Family, has been announced and as its name implies it’s a family affair. The CD arrives November 19, 2021 on Legacy Recordings. The new album includes compositions written by Hank Williams (“I Saw the Light”), Kris Kristofferson (“Why Me”) and George Harrison (“All Things Must Pass”).

Musicians on The Willie Nelson Family are: Willie Nelson (lead vocals, background vocals, Trigger); Bobbie Nelson (piano); Lukas Nelson (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lead vocals, background vocals); Micah Nelson (drums, bass, background vocals); Paula Nelson (background vocals); Amy Nelson (background vocals); Mickey Raphael (harmonica); Billy English (drums); Paul English (percussion) and Kevin Smith (bass).

A first single, a new recording of “Family Bible,” was released on Sept. 23, the day of the announcement. One of Nelson’s earliest compositions, the song was penned in 1957, inspired by scenes of Willie’s grandmother singing “Rock of Ages” and reading from the Bible after supper. A struggling young songwriter moving to Houston, Willie sold the song to Paul Buskirk, who enlisted singer Claude Gray to record Nelson’s original songs (including “Family Bible” and “Night Life”). Gray’s single version of “Family Bible” was released in February 1960 and reached #7 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Singles chart. The single’s success enabled Willie to move to Nashville, where he established his reputation as a songwriter. Willie recorded his own version of “Family Bible” for the first time in 1971, and the song has been a staple in his live performances.

Willie’s son Lukas (who fronts his own band, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real) sings lead vocals on two of the album’s tracks–“All Things Must Pass” and A.P. Carter’s “Keep It on the Sunnyside”–while sharing lead vocals with Willie on “I Saw the Light,” “I Thought About You, Lord” and “Why Me.”

Four of the performances on The Willie Nelson Family–“Heaven and Hell,” “Kneel at the Feet of Jesus,” “Laying My Burdens Down” and “Family Bible”–are among the last recordings Willie made with his longtime drummer and pal Paul English. Paul and Willie first played together in Fort Worth in 1955; Paul became Willie’s regular drummer in 1966 and an essential member of the Family until he passed away, at age 87, on Feb. 11, 2020.

Willie Nelson, Bobbie Nelson and Chris Barton have co-authored Sister, Brother, Family: An American Childhood in Music, a children’s picture book illustrated by Kyung Eun Han available in hardcover Nov. 9.

Nelson’s most recent album was That’s Life, a second collection of standards from the Frank Sinatra repertoire, released Feb. 26, 2021, It debuted at #1 on both Billboard‘s Jazz Albums chart and the Traditional Jazz Albums chart.

The Willie Nelson Family Track Listing

1. Heaven and Hell (Willie Nelson)
2. Kneel at the Feet of Jesus (Willie Nelson)
3. Laying My Burdens Down (Willie Nelson)
4. Family Bible (Claude Gray, Paul Buskirk & Walt Breeland)
5. In the Garden (traditional)
6. All Things Must Pass (George Harrison)
7. I Saw the Light (Hank Williams, Sr.)
8. In God’s Eyes (Willie Nelson)
9. Keep It On the Sunnyside (A.P. Carter)
10. I Thought About You, Lord (Willie Nelson)
11. Too Sick To Pray (Willie Nelson)
12. Why Me (Kris Kristofferson)

Nelson turned 88 last April 29. Tickets to see him perform are available here.

Related: Our Album Rewind of the unlikely birth of outlaw country, Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger

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