At 85 years old, Willie Nelson – a son of Texas and one of country music’s most prolific songwriters and performers – is doing more with his time on earth than millennials a quarter of his age. This weekend alone, along with playing Camden’s BB&T Pavilion with his annual Outlaw Music Festival, Nelson releases “My Way,” his 68th studio album, and one dedicated to the memory of, and songs associated with, his old friend, Frank Sinatra. To say that Nelson does barroom classics like “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)," country justice doesn’t say enough about how lovely Willie’s tribute to Old Blue Eyes sounds. Nelson is also front-and-center on a tribute album to another old pal with “King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller.” If hearing Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Merle Haggard trade verses on "Old Friends” doesn’t bring a tear to your beer, buddy, you ain’t living. All that new Willie music sets us up for Nelson’s live annual Outlaw Music Fest party, dedicated to his old pals who made hard drinking and rough living country music with a honky tonk edge. The point is, nothing will stop Willie Nelson from making music – not time, not illness, not lost friends. He’s too busy concentrating on the friends playing his Outlaw Fest with him.
Outlaw Music Festival 2018 lineup
The idea of outlaw country music was born with the likes of Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and other like-minded fellaheen who didn’t play by the rules. Maybe the lyrics were a little more poetic and personal. Maybe the guitars were a little louder and dirtier. In that outlaw spirit, Nelson has continued on, and curated his touring party as such. His son, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real – a rocking band that has been paired up with Neil Young for several collaborative albums and tours – definitely have that outlaw spirit.
Nelson’s other son Micah Nelson - Particle Kid – has his own weird visions of country/indie pop worth beholding. So does the Tedeschi Trucks Band – the nasty, tangy blues rock toast of Jacksonville, Florida, led by married guitarists, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. Yes, Tedeschi is an outlaw and as bad as they come. So is Greensky Bluegrass – don’t let the gentle name fool you. And while Willie Nelson and his large band play all of its stoner classics (“It’s All Going to Pot,” “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,”) and hits (“Still Not Dead,” ”On the Road Again,” “Always on My MindJ, watch out for Van Morrison. What the legendarily blue eyed soul vocalist is doing here, no one knows. And that’s what makes him outlaw. Along with releasing a dynamic new album (“You're Driving Me Crazy”) co-starring Philadelphia Hammond organist Joey DeFrancesco (who I pray makes an appearance), Morrison too has had a busy 2018, releasing multiple albums and making other Outlaw tour stops playing his FM radio staples such as “Moondance,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” and “Gloria.”
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Outlaw Music Festival 2018 date and ticket info
The Outlaw Music Festival is Saturday, Sept.15, at BB&T Pavilion, 1 Harbour Blvd., Camden, New Jersey. The tickets are. $299.50+, and are available through ticketmaster.com. If you want additional Outlaw Fest info, check out blackbirdpresents.com/concert/outlaw-music-festival-tour-2018.