Austin360 On The Record: Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, Band of Heathens, more

Willie Nelson. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2o17

OUT THIS WEEK

Willie Nelson, “My Way” (Legacy). There may be no artist in popular music more prolific than Nelson has been over the past decade or so, with albums regularly coming twice a year if not more. Lately quite a few of them have been tributes, including the Grammy-winning Gershwins collection “Summertime” and a salute to his late friend Ray Price. “My Way” continues that thread as Willie tackles 11 tunes indelibly associated with Frank Sinatra. Recorded primarily in Los Angeles (with additional sessions in Austin, Nashville and Brooklyn), “My Way” teams Nelson’s recent right-hand-man producer Buddy Cannon with longtime Lyle Lovett pianist Matt Rollings, who also worked on “Summertime.” Together they create an exquisite, intimate instrumental canvas for Nelson’s vocals to color with his iconically distinctive flair. At 85, Willie still swings with joy and wonder on the buoyant “A Foggy Day” and the bouncing “Night and Day,” but he’s best on more contemplative numbers: The wisdom of his years inhabits the reflective blue tones of “It Was a Very Good Year” and the romantic bittersweetness of “I’ll Be Around.” Norah Jones joins him for a sweetly swinging duet on “What Is This Thing Called Love,” but mainly this is vintage Willie doing Sinatra in his own way, right down to the dramatic closing title track. Playing Sept. 29 at Auditorium Shores. Here’s the video for “Summer Wind”:

Asleep at the Wheel, “New Routes” (Bismeaux/ThirtyTigers). Though they’ve stayed plenty busy the past decade with another Bob Wills tribute album and collaborations with Willie Nelson and the Fort Worth Symphony, this is the first new “normal” Asleep at the Wheel album since 2007’s “Reinventing the Wheel.” Leader Ray Benson’s backing crew has changed a lot since then, and “New Routes” reflects those changes — primarily the addition of fiddler/singer Katie Shore, who steps out in a big way here. She sings lead on six of the album’s 11 tracks, wrote two of the best ones herself, and co-wrote another with Benson. This isn’t entirely surprising, given the high quality of Shore’s 2016 solo album (recorded before she joined the Wheel in 2014), but it does suggest a brave new way forward for the band. Benson’s still steering the ship, and his lead vocals on three sublime covers — the late Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues,” Scottish pop star Paolo Nutini’s “Pencil Full of Lead” and the old Moon Mullican hit “Seven Nights to Rock” — reaffirm the Wheel’s role as ace interpreters of a seemingly endless range of material. The album-closing “Willie Got There First” features the star-power cameo of Seth and Scott Avett, but that semi-novelty tribute number ultimately is just a postscript to a set that reaffirms the Wheel still has a wide-open horizon to explore. Release show Sept. 16 at Broken Spoke, in-store Sept. 19 at Waterloo Records. Here’s a recent live version of an abbreviated Wheel lineup performing the album’s opening track, “Jack I’m Mellow”:

Band of Heathens, “A Message From the People Revisited.” Released in 1972, Ray Charles’ “A Message From the People” was an ambitious concept album that noted 1960s civil rights triumphs while still acknowledging America had a long way to go. Austin’s Band of Heathens decided to re-record the album in sequence because of “its moving commentary on social justice, abuse-of-power, and its vision for a stronger, more-unified America,” per the press materials sent out with the record. It’s also a good fit for the group’s broad-ranging Americana talents, with songs that range from the soulful public-domain classics “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “America the Beautiful” to Dion’s folk classic “Abraham, Martin and John” and even John Denver’s rambling “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” The band plans to donate proceeds from the record to Rock the Vote, a nonprofit “dedicated to building the political power of young people through pop culture, music, art and technology,” per its website. Playing the album in full Nov. 25 at Antone’s. Here’s the track “Hey Mister”:

Cory Morrow, “Whiskey and Pride.” With more than a dozen releases in the past two decades and a solid fan base built upon relentless regional touring, Morrow has long been firmly established as one of the top artists on the Texas roadhouse circuit. “Whiskey and Pride,” produced by Lloyd Maines, continues with what has worked for him all those years, delivering rough-and-tumble country-rock leavened with a few sweeter ballads. Of the latter, “Always and Forever” stands out, long a live-show favorite but getting proper studio treatment for the first time with harmonies from Jamie Lin Wilson. Morrow also nods to two of his favorite songwriters with covers of Rodney Crowell’s “Come on Funny Feelin’” and Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Hill Country Rain.” Release shows Sept. 14-15 at Gruene Hall. Here’s the video for the title track:

Gina Chavez, “Lightbeam” EP. This five-song collection from Chavez, who won Album of the Year honors at the Austin Music Awards for her last full-length release in 2014, “sheds light on times she grappled with faith, sacrifice and society’s views on love,” observes the American-Statesman’s Nancy Flores in this week’s feature story on Chavez. “It’s an ode to the dozen years she and her partner have weathered life’s storms together.” Release show Sept. 15 at Antone’s. Here’s the video for the track “Heaven Knows”:

Johnny Goudie, “Leper Hands” EP. Increasingly known for his “How Did I Get Here” podcast interviews with local musicians, Goudie gets back to his own music with this four-song collection of pop and rock tunes. Producer Scrappy Jud Newcomb keeps the spotlight on Goudie’s high tenor, weaving in the tasteful support of drummer John Chipman and bassist Sean Crooks plus backing vocals from Jaimee Harris and Jane Ellen Bryant. Release show Sept. 13 at One-2-One Bar. Here’s the opening track, “Everyone’s Got Something,” an instantly appealing melodic number that recalls the best of Marshall Crenshaw’s catalog:

Ben Millburn, “Sunglass Moustache.” The full-length debut from this Louisiana transplant features 11 original songs in the vein of psychedelic indie-rock. Here’s the video for “Mr. Tuxedo”:

COMING SOON

  • SEPT. 21: “Blaze” Original Cast Recording soundtrack (Cinewax/Light in the Attic).
  • SEPT. 21: Jaimee Harris, “Red Rescue,” playing Sept. 20 at One-2-One Bar.
  • SEPT. 21: Western Youth, self-titled, release show Sept. 21 at Spider House Ballroom.
  • SEPT. 21: Will Courtney, “Crazy Love” (Super Secret), in-store Sept. 18 at Waterloo Records.
  • SEPT. 21: Jonathon Zemek, “Hillcrest.”
  • SEPT. 21: Jane Ellen Bryant, “Let Me Be Lost” EP.
  • SEPT. 25: Charlie Belle, “Like I Love This” EP, playing Oct. 13 at Whip In.
  • SEPT. 28: Jerry David DeCicca, “Burning Daylight” (Super Secret).
  • SEPT. 28: Nobody’s Girl, “Waterline” EP, release show Sept. 29 at Saxon Pub.
  • OCT. 5: Molly Burch, “First Flower” (Captured Tracks), playing Oct. 6 at Austin City Limits Music Festival.
  • OCT. 5: Max Frost, “Gold Rush” (Atlantic).
  • OCT. 5: Michael Martin Murphey, “Austinology: Alleys of Austin.”
  • OCT. 12: Lindsay Beaver, “Tough As Love” (Alligator).
  • OCT. 12: Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, “Rocket” (Verve Forecast).
  • OCT. 15: Kevin Welch, “Dust Devil.”
  • OCT. 25: Lesly Reynaga, release show Oct. 25 at One-2-One Bar.
  • OCT. 26: Carson McHone, “Carousel.”
  • OCT. 26: Jamie Lin Wilson, “Jumping Over Rocks,” playing Oct. 20 at Sam’s Town Point.
  • OCT. 26: Isaac Jacob Band, self-titled (Union 28).
  • NOV. 7: Kate Howard, release show Nov. 7 at One-2-One Bar.
  • NOV. 9: Sydney Wright, “Seiche.”