Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Willie Nelson's brings in the whole Family on latest record, a first with sons, daughters

The new "Willie Nelson Family" album features Lukas, from left, Amy, Willie, Micah, Bobbie and Paula Nelson.

Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists. 

Out this week

Willie Nelson Family, self-titled (Legacy). It’s no small signifier that Willie Nelson calls his touring band the Family. While only pianist Bobbie Nelson, his sister, is a blood relative among his core crew onstage, the others are mostly such longtime friends that he treats them like his own kin.

Furthermore, the Family band has often expanded in recent years to include Lukas and Micah Nelson, Willie’s two youngest children. And when he closes his shows with a gospel medley, daughters Paula and Amy Nelson, who sometimes travel with their father, will often pop out from backstage and sing along.

Bobbie, Lukas, Micah, Paula and Amy all appear on the cover of this new album simply titled “Willie Nelson Family.” It’s the first time he’s gathered that full group for a studio project, though he’s been leaning in a familial direction lately, releasing “December Day” with Bobbie in 2014 and “Willie and the Boys” with Lukas and Micah in 2017.

READ MORE:Our 2021 interview with Lukas Nelson

The focus here is on spiritual tunes, with Willie originals such as “Kneel at the Feet of Jesus” and “Family Bible” sharing space with Hank Williams’ iconic “I Saw the Light” and C. Austin Miles’ century-old hymn “In the Garden.” Contributions from Paula and Amy largely involve backing vocals on these tunes, enhancing their gospel-choir feel.

The arrangements are simple, often centered on Bobbie’s piano as longtime Willie sidekick Mickey Raphael colors the background with harmonica accents. These are mostly short songs: All but two clock in at under three minutes (a couple are under two), adding up to just past a half-hour for a dozen songs.

The one song that sticks out as most unusual in the context of the album it also far and away its highlight. Lukas takes the lead vocal on a transcendent rendition of “All Things Must Pass,” the melancholy title track to George Harrison’s first post-Beatles album in 1970. Willie adds gravitas with a subtle backing vocal in the chorus, while Micah handles the bass and drum tracks. It’s a thing of beauty, perhaps suggesting an acoustic all-covers album in Lukas’ future.

RELATED:Willie Nelson gets on the road again with Austin stop on Outlaw Fest tour

Willie’s touring rhythm section of drummer Billy English and bassist Kevin Smith also appear, as does the late Paul English on percussion. The album was recorded at Pedernales Studios in Spicewood, with Willie and Steve Chadie co-producing. Here’s “All Things Must Pass”:

Wade Bowen, “Where Phones Don’t Work” EP (Thirty Tigers). The Central Texas troubadour serves up six songs he wrote during the pandemic, observing in press materials accompanying the release that the necessary break from touring “created an opportunity for me to really open my writing brain, and my heart, a lot more. I’ve never written this much in my entire life.” There’s nothing new here in terms of Bowen’s sound — it’s tuneful country-rock rooted in twangy guitars and steady rhythms — but these are strong songs with compelling melodies and largely uplifting lyrics. Release show Nov. 24 at Gruene Hall. Here’s the video for “When Love Comes Around”:

Recently released

Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band, “Music Is Dead” (Castle Face). Released in September — the vinyl version came out this week — this six-song set is the latest from one of Austin’s most prolific musicians, judging from the dozen releases listed on his Bandcamp page that he’s issued justin the last four years. This is mind-bendingly psychedelic stuff, with tracks ranging in length from just under six minutes to nearly nine. Potter played and sang everything himself, no small feat considering how dense and layered these arrangements are. Vinyl release show Nov. 20 at Antone’s. Here’s the opening track, “One Eye Flees Aquapolis”:

Coming soon

DEC. 2: Rick Furst, “The Riddle”

DEC. 3: Jason Boland & the Stragglers, “The Light Saw Me” (Thirty Tigers)

DEC. 3: Nori, self-titled, release show Dec. 10 at Central Market North

DEC. 3: Walter Daniels & the Del Valle Trustees, “Have a Coffee Break With”

DEC. 18: Ben Brown, “Sayonara Sorrow,” and Jefferson Brown, “The French King Was Decapitated” (Shire), dual release show Dec. 18 at Sam’s Town Point

JAN. 14: Jamestown Revival, “Young Man” (Thirty Tigers), release show Jan. 14 at Gruene Hall

JAN. 21: Whitmore Sisters, “Ghost Stories” (Red House)

JAN. 21: Bruce Hughes, “Late Night Polaroids”

FEB. 11: Spoon, “Lucifer on the Sofa” (Matador)

MAY: Lyle Lovett, title TBA

More from Austin360 On The Record:

NOV. 12:Buffalo Nichols, David Beck's Tejano Weekend, Jenn Hartmann Luck

NOV. 5: Matt the Electrician, Lance Keltner, Colin Clark, Buenos Diaz

OCT. 29:Natalie Jane Hill, Kris Schultz, Explosions in the Sky