Willie Nelson has written over 2,500 songs and recorded more than 300 albums — so you’re forgiven if you don’t remember 1998’s Teatro. But if you need to pay attention to any cut in particular off that album it’s Willie and Emmylou Harris‘ version of “The Maker”.
Interestingly enough, the standout track is one of the few on the record Nelson didn’t write. It was actually written and composed by Teatro‘s producer Daniel Lanois, who has worked with greats such as Bob Dylan, U2 and Neil Young.
Lanois penned “The Maker” in 1989 and instantly received acclaim for its near-gospel qualities. The song follows a character who laments at his decisions, which he believes have made him a “stranger” in the eyes of the maker. But by the end of the song, he receives redemption that, through the river of reverb and rhythmic pulsing of the percussion, almost feels angelic.
Nelson had Emmylou Harris provide vocals on nearly all of Teatro. The record was recorded in an old movie theater (which is depicted by the album cover). When it came time to release a single, “The Maker” was an obvious choice — but what wasn’t obvious was the decision to record it live (with Lanois on guitar) and promote the live version.
Nelson and Harris’ vocals are almost forlorn, with Lanois’ smooth, bluesy guitar carrying the song from one phrase to the next. Check out the touching live video above.