Last week, Legacy Recordings announced the May 15 release of Willie Nelson’s new record, Heroes, and based on a few details that have been revealed, it just might end up as his biggest album in some time:
1. The record (sort of) marks Willie’s return to the label that put out The Red Headed Stranger
Legacy is the archival subsidiary of Sony Music, which had Willie on its Columbia Records imprint between 1975 (the year The Red Headed Stranger was released) and 1993. Willie’s deal with Legacy calls for five new albums, as well as countless catalog reissues and collections.
2. Heroes is a mix of covers and original material, with an impressive list of guest musicians
Willie himself wrote three songs: “Hero,” “Come On Back, Jesus,” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” a song he performs with none other than fellow toker Snoop Dogg. There’s also a trio of old country covers: the 1930’s ballad “My Window Faces The South;” the 1943 classic “Home In San Antone;” and 1949’s “Cold War With You,” a duet Willie sings with Ray Price.
Other guest stars include Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson, Billy Joe Shaver, Sheryl Crow, Paul Shaffer, and Merle Haggard, who joins Nelson for another crack at “A Horse Called Music,” which the pair first did on the 1989 album of the name.
3. “Roll Me Up and Smoke When I Die” was going to be the album’s title
“We decided there might be a couple more conservative outlets out there that wouldn’t appreciate it,” Willie told Jeff Ball of the Reno Gazette Journal.
4. It’s a family affair
Willie’s son Lukas wrote three songs for the album and appears on ten of Heroes‘ fourteen tracks. Willie’s son Michah co-wrote “Come On Back Jesus,” with his father, a song performed by all three Nelson men.
5. The Coldplay cover was just a start
Willie’s now-famous version of “The Scientist” (originally heard in a Chipotle commercial about sustainable agriculture) drew comparisons to Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” And now, just as Cash once covered grunge-rockers Soundgarden, Willie has taken on “Just Breathe,” a track from Pearl Jam’s 2009 album, Backspacer.
Watch the Seattle band perform the song on Austin City Limits, and you’ll see it’s not at all a stretch: