Tributary 

Reinventing the Red Headed Stranger

Carla Bozulich & the Nels Cline Singers
Fri April 5
Dante's

The names Carla Bozulich and Nels Cline alone are enough to send chills up any music lover's back. Collaborators in punk bands so artful as to be mysterious, Cline is one of the greatest guitarists in America, and Bozulich, one of the most compelling singers. In the Geraldine Fibbers, they made a sassy, tough-as-shit blend of punk guitars and heartfelt country ballads, charged with Bozulich's powerfully craggy, alternatingly accusatory and meowing vocals. In Scarnella, they multiplied on the impacting, mysterious beauty of their music. With darkly emotional, sometimes improvised battalions of noise, samples, and the weighty resonance of Carla's furrowed-brow vocals, Bozulich and Cline have made a cache of music that illuminates darkness through its light, hopeful beauty. And now, they collaborate in the Red Headed Stranger--Carla's longtime aspiration to perform the entirety of the Willie Nelson record of the same name.

But first, a little about Willie: Red Headed Stranger was released in 1975, when he was 42. It was a departure from his earlier couple of albums in that well, it was a fully authentic, Bonanza-style, wild spaghetti western, complete with old-school country covers (by names familiar to only the staunchest country fans: Fred Rose, Hank Cochran, Bob Wills). His biggest hit from that album was a Fred Rose classic, "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," a simple, sad tune whose chorus laments, "Through the ages, I'll remember/ Blue eyes crying in the rain." Spare, raw, and utterly depressing. It is no wonder that Willie Nelson is the only true country singer left who hasn't yet drank himself to death.

Except, maybe, for Carla Bozulich. Backed by the Nels Cline Singers (Nels' vocal-less new trio), Carla will reinterpret and pay homage to Willie's Red Headed Stranger, from the opening, epic bars of "Time of the Preacher," through the cautionary tale of the title track, to the very loving end of "Bonaparte's Retreat." After we thank her for choosing to cover what may be the most subtly depressing album in existence, we can thank her again for reinterpreting it--her voice will surely do justice to the songs and the spirit of the record. Willie is lucky to have such a talent paying homage to him.

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