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Willie runs music gamut at Deer Valley

Kat James , Of the Record Staff
Willie Nelson fingerpicks one of 37 songs at Deer Valley on Monday night.
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The Deer Valley "Big Stars, Bright Nights" concert season came to a close Monday night with Willie Nelson and his band taking center stage to a sellout crowd.

Teri Orr, executive director of the Performing Arts Foundation introduced the legendary six-time Grammy winner, noting that this concert was three years in the making. She also made a point of introducing audience member, native Parkite Ella Sorenson, a dyed-in-the-wool Willie fan, who just celebrated her "80-something" birthday.

The man himself appeared with the iconic braids and headband and began the evening with "Whiskey River." A momentary speaker malfunction occurred but he didn’t miss a note. His guitar, a Martin nylon-string acoustic that he calls "Trigger," is so beat up that it’s inconceivable how it can deliver its sweet sound. More than 100 signatures of friends and associates grace the sound box and with the worn hole almost big enough to drive a truck through, it’s arguably the most recognizable instrument in country music.

Think of a Willie hit and more than likely he performed it. During the solid two-hour set, he and his band played 37 tunes, including a couple of instrumentals and several medleys.

He got everyone moving and singing with "Beer for My Horses," which he recorded with Toby Keith, winning an award for best country video.

A medley of original tunes followed, including, "Funny How Time Slips Away," "Crazy," and "Night Life," all recorded by other artists like Ray Price and Patsy Cline, back before Willie Nelson achieved name recognition.

In a tribute to Kris Kristofferson, he crooned "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and "Me and Bobby McGee."

He introduced his bass player, Paul, and sang "Me and Paul," from the "Wanted: The Outlaws" album, moving into "If You’ve Got the Money, Honey, I’ve Got the Time."

Although Willie has penned literally thousands of songs, many of his hits are not his own. Some of those performed included, "Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain," "Georgia on My Mind" and "Blue Skies."

Originals followed with "Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground," and "On the Road Again."

A spiritual break gave everyone the opportunity to participate on the Carter family tune "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," as well as "I’ll Fly Away."

Another medley was made up of Hank Williams tunes: "Jambalaya," "Hey Good Lookin’" and "Move It On Over."

Another tribute to the late Waylon Jennings included "Good Hearted Woman" and "Luckenbach, Texas" with his lead guitar player singing Waylon’s part.

Somewhere along the way, we heard Steve Goodman’s classic "City of New Orleans" and Townes Van Zandt’s "Poncho and Lefty."

As the evening drew to a close, he introduced a couple of new, humorous tunes, "I Ain’t Superman," which he wrote while recovering from carpal tunnel surgery a few months back, and "You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore" very easy to relate to.

The concert ended with a high-steppin’ version of Hank Williams’ "I Saw the Light" and a few bars of "Roll Out the Barrel."

The only disappointment of the evening was that Willie didn’t communicate with the crowd more. Comments were overheard that he didn’t engage his audience, give a little more of himself, tell a few more stories, etc. Had he done that, however, he wouldn’t have had the time for 37 tunes, so there you are.

With nary a drop of rain this week, the evening was a perfect way to end the three-day weekend and the summer concert season.


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