Oh, the mid 1990's. It was the glory days of the compilation album, where labels would just throw a bunch of bands on a cd, knowing that as long as you liked two or three of the bands, you'd but the entire album since there was no way you'd ever have any other way to get a copy of the exclusive songs. One of their favorite ways to put one of these together was a tribute album. You'd get a bunch of bands that would usually never be associated together, often covering an artist you'd never expect.
One of these tribute albums was Twisted Willie, which is a mostly alternative tribute to Willie Nelson. Including Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings on a tribute to Willie Nelson makes perfect sense, although the Johnny Cash version of "Time of the Preacher" gives Cash a backing band of Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, and Alice in Chains' Sean Kinney, so this is hardly a classic country version. Other bands like the Supersuckers, Reverend Horton Heat, and X make perfect sense since they've always been tinged at the very least with classic country. But then you get the oddballs, like L7. Their version of "Three Days" is a little more melodic than L7 normally are, but it still sounds like L7 except for a bizarre (and fantastic!) twangy breakdown in the middle of the song. The Presidents of the United States of America might have seemed like a weird band to play a country song, but looking back twenty years later and their take on "Devil in a Sleepin' Bag" fits right in their regular catalog. Other weird choices that somehow work include songs by Jello Biafra, Kelly Deal, and Jerry Cantrel.
While the alternative heroes of the 90's playing classic Willie Nelson songs might have seemed weird in 1996, looking back and it makes perfect sense. Willie Nelson's music has always been universal, and, even though 20 year old me would never have admitted it, country music infected a lot of my favorites from back then. Twisted Willie works in ways most other tribute compilations of the time don't. Plus, a lot of the songs feature Willie joining in, because of course they do.
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