In 2012, Willie Nelson released a song that could well have been his epitaph: “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” a honky-tonk jam that partnered him up with a group of fellow marijuana enthusiasts—Snoop Dogg, Jamey Johnson, Kris Kristofferson. As stoner jams go, it’s one of the greats, a tune written by Willie himself (with an assist from some of his longtime collaborators) that recognizes a fundamental truth about the man from Abbott, Texas: after decades as one of the world’s most prominent marijuana enthusiasts, Willie Nelson’s body is probably like 90 percent weed at this point. 

That makes him the perfect duet partner for anyone’s pot-smoking anthem, and the improbably successful Michigan-bred bluegrass star Billy Strings managed to land one with the man himself for his first major-label release. On the single “California Sober,” Strings and Willie craft an ode to the practice of staying—as the title suggests—”California sober,” which is typically defined as when you quit drinking and hard drugs (as Strings famously has) but keep on smoking weed. In the song, the two swap stories of maturity and growing up, learning that you “can’t stay out to party like [you] did back in the day” and that it’s time to stop “raising holy hell and posting bail,” while still mellowing out at the end of the night. The song’s something of a spiritual sequel to “Roll Me Up,” an up-tempo bop in which Strings shows off a manual dexterity on the guitar that rivals Willie’s own (at one point, Nelson offers a “pick it, Willie”) as they trade verses. And in the video, which premieres below, you can watch Strings reverently finger the fretboard on Willie’s guitar, Trigger

As for the concept of California sober, well, it’s clearly worked out just fine for Willie, who’ll celebrate his ninetieth birthday tomorrow at a sold-out tribute show in Los Angeles (at which Strings will be performing, along with a who’s who of superstars from across genres). He’s not the first Texan to record a tune by that title, though—in 2021, Demi Lovato released a single by the same name, tracking the singer’s own journey through a very particular kind of sobriety. (These days, Lovato endorses a “sober sober” lifestyle.) It may not be for everyone, but it sure seems to be treating Willie and Billy Strings pretty well.