Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger - Review
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critics' view

A major success for Willie, establishing him once and for all as a big player in his own right in the country field, and placing the artist firmly at the forefront of the rising “outlaw country” sub-genre. The sparsity of this LP underlines the old adage that, sometimes, less is more. Adorned with little more than a touch of acoustic guitar, a light bass, piano and harmonica, all the focus is on Willie’s vocals and the conceptualized story which is told from beginning to end. The album is high on entertainment value, and has appeal for folks who may, or may not, be fans of the country genre. The story of the album is explained awesomely on good ol' Wikipedia:

The story begins with “Time of the Preacher”, where the character evokes his love for his wife, whom he suspects is unfaithful. In the following song, “I Couldn't Believe It Was True”, the infidelity is revealed. This leads to a short version of “Time of the Preacher”, wherein the singer ends with the line “Now the lesson is over, and the killing’s begun”. The reaction of the husband is depicted by Nelson in a medley of “Blue Rock, Montana / Red Headed Stranger”. The first song describes the double murder of the unfaithful woman and her lover by the Stranger, who states “and they died with a smile on their faces.” This leads to the second song of the medley, which describes the grief of the Stranger. This section is followed by Nelson's cover of the 1947 Fred Rose, song “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”, where the fugitive laments the loss of his wife. In “Red Headed Stranger”, the protagonist commits a subsequent murder—he kills a woman he believes is stealing his horse. The horse, to which he undoubtedly holds a sentimental attachment, had belonged to the Stranger's wife. The story continues with the Stranger traveling south. In the song “Denver”, the character falls in love with a woman he meets in a bar in town. One of the lines from “Blue Rock Montana” is repeated, with a variation: “And they danced with a smile on their faces.” The following song, “Can I Sleep in Your Arms?”, shows the desire of the Stranger for redemption and love. Next is “Remember Me”, where he announces that his vows to his deceased wife are broken and he is free to love. The story ends with “Hands on the Wheel”, which depicts the Stranger as an old man who is accompanied by a child, presumably his grandson, and his new love. The song marks the end of the sorrow of the Stranger, and his redemption years later. The album ends with the instrumental song “Bandera”.

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