I woke up on Saturday morning with a pit in my stomach - anxiety and hesitation filling the space where excitement and butterflies should have been fluttering about - clouds were looming above spilling their contents, thunder roaring in applause at their efforts, and the threat of tornadoes lingering somewhere backstage. Despite my worries I laid out my clothes, took a long shower, and got ready. When you’re headed to a place called Luck you’re bound to have a twist of fate in your favor - and lucky is what we were when the storms passed quicker than the morning meteorologist report anticipated, the potential for tornadoes nothing more than a blustering wind.
I pulled up to the ranch gate, greeted by my check-in. “Have you been here before?” Yes. “So you know your way around?” A smile and a flicker of delight in my chest at my reply that yes, I did know my way around the ranch at Luck, TX.
I’d been invited to sit in on a taping of an exclusive SiriusXM special with Willie Nelson, his daughter Paula, and his friend and producer Buddy Cannon. We were being treated to a sneak preview of Willie’s new album Ride Me Back Home and an interview between Paula and, as she tenderly called her father, her “Papa Bear”.
The Chapel in Luck, TX is adorned on the outside with the beautiful weathering of time, ivy hugging her sides gently. The inside of the chapel, decorated with wheat stalk crosses, garland made of strips of fabric embellished with pendants lining the windows, pews that creak and moan with the stir of those inhabiting them, and a stage no bigger than the average area rug. As the afternoon sun, our only source of light, shone through the open windows, it’s warm color causing everything to glow, you felt as though you were in the midst of something magical...and you were.
The room was full - I can’t recall my exact count but it was around 50 - bodies shoulder to shoulder inhabiting each of the twelve pews. Fifty people hanging on to each note played to us, each story told, not a single soul distracted or letting a moment pass without their undivided attention.
The following hour and a half the intimate crowd was treated to a sneak preview of some tracks from Nelson’s new album, Ride Me Back Home, with interview questions and anecdotes peppering the time in between.
Sonny Throckmorton, a legend in his own right who has had over 1,000 of his songs recorded by various country artists and the man behind the pen of the title track “Ride Me Back Home”, explained that Willie’s horses living on the ranch inspired the song. Throckmorton said having the title-track was a great honor and when Willie broke in saying they should do a full album he chuckled and responded, “Are we starting now?” Willie spoke lovingly of those rescue horses, 70 of which he saved from slaughter, which are hand-fed twice a day and were saved with the help of Habitat for Horses.
There are a couple of covers on the album including Guy Clark’s “Immigrant Eyes”. When asked about the song Willie said, “It’s a good song, appropriate for these times and the problems we’re having around the border. It explains it well.” Another is an adaptation of Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” that was recorded for a Billy Joel tribute album that was never completed. Buddy Cannon mentioned that he’d received a note from Joel after he’d heard the recording thanking him for “breathing new life into the old song”. One of my favorite tracks on the record is a cover of Mac Davis’ “Hard to Be Humble” in collaboration with his sons Lukas and Micah - the trio performed the song at this years Luck Reunion. Willie led the chapel audience in a sing-a-long before concluding the interview.
Ride Me Back Home is due out in June of this year.
Laura is a native St. Louisan giving you the front row view by photographing your favorite artists.