Relying mostly on guitar, piano, and drums, Nelson summoned a small crew of musicians in the studio—his sister, Bobbie Nelson, longtime drummer Paul English, Bucky Meadows, Mickey Raphael, Jody Payne.
Little else was needed to evoke the sound of the Preacher’s violent ride, the relentless, loping, strumming gait: “Don’t fight him don’t spite him/Let’s wait till tomorrow/Maybe he’ll ride on again.” The horse in the studio was, of course, Trigger, the Martin guitar Nelson had customized in Nashville a few years earlier, Frankensteined with a pickup from his old Baldwin guitar and named after Roy Rogers’ television horse.
Nelson converses with the genre’s roots but sends them into uncharted and previously forbidden territory, fusing his essential influences—the tragic brilliance of Hank Williams and the melodic expression of Django Reinhardt.
His anti-heroic story has elements of Homeric myth, a moody, Sergio Leone sensibility, the devastating lyrical force of Cormac Mc Carthy, whose Border Trilogy in many ways prefigures.
Country music had always been one of the truest genres, gritty and realistic songs of broken hearts, the farm, the factory, the bottle.
But until the genre had offered scant escapism and “almost no fantasy.” Nelson, for the first time, allowed country music to dream big and beautiful.
It was a song Nelson used to play as a disk jockey on Fort Worth radio and it stayed in his head long after.
In the spirit of fieldworker blues, gospel, country, and traditional Mexican songs that reverberated through the rows of Texas cotton Nelson picked as a child, it follows an ancient plot.
1 hits he wrote for others; he resisted record company producers and their suggestions of “different styles” while at the same time demanded better marketing for his records.
Was it worth it working for nothing to fit someone else’s mold?