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Baker's Dozen

Escape To The Country: Willy Vlautin Of Richmond Fontaine's Favourite LPs
John Freeman , April 6th, 2016 09:55

Following the release of Richmond Fontaine's tenth and final album, You Can't Go Back If There Is Nothing To Go Back To, the singer and author talks to John Freeman about his favourite albums of storytelling escapism


Willie Nelson – Greatest Hits (& Some That Will Be)
This record was one of the five albums that my mother owned, when I was growing up. For whatever reason, this album made it into her collection. My mother was not a big music fan and as I got older she became increasingly right wing. She became more and more conservative, racist and harder to deal with. She was not a fan of the arts. She wasn't a fan of me being in a band. She was ashamed that I played music in a band and it was pretty obvious.

Therefore, throughout my life, this long-haired hippy was playing in my house. This album was always there. My mom would have a couple of drinks and put it on. Willie could do no wrong. Willie was liberal, smoked weed, had long hair and my mom just gave him a free pass. She admired his music and she liked his voice. When she was drunk, she would say he was kind of sexy.

I remember Willie getting a free pass from my redneck friends' fathers. These were guys who would shoot hippies normally, but would give Willie Nelson a free pass and let him be himself. All I ever wanted when I was growing up was to not be yelled at for playing music or reading books. Willie could do that. He was the first show I ever saw when I was eight years old.

Willie Nelson was like my saint. I would think of him as my protector. When I listen to his music, he made me think that perhaps my mom wasn't so hardcore right wing and such a hater of the arts, because she liked Willie Nelson. So, he gave me hope for my mom and my relationship with her. That record, in particular, makes you feel that you could be whatever you want. He has three or four really classic records that people really like, but, for me, all the songs work really well together on this collection.

What was it about Willie Nelson that got him all the free passes?

Well, number one, he is just so good. Moreover, everybody has an aspect of what he is about in them. I think that everyone really wants to be their own person and do their own thing. However, most people don't want that side to come out for whatever reason and maybe they start getting bitter and disrespect the more hippy, libertarian side in other people.

When I grew up, I used to think that people who listened to Black Flag and stuff like that were rebels, but Willie is the biggest rebel. It's like he says on this record – "I wanna grow me a beard, just to see what the rednecks will do." For him to grow a beard, have long hair and stand up for being different takes a lot of guts. It takes more guts than being in a speed metal band or a punk rock band playing to your own tribe. To be in a tribe that doesn't like you, growing up surrounded by rednecks and to still be yourself – that takes balls. That's why I have always loved Willie. That's why when you see Willie play today, you see hippies and rednecks and punks and old people and young people. They all just love him.