What are the best hidden Willie Nelson songs? He might be 85 years old, but he keeps on recording music, outshining many of his younger peers. As a result, he has a massive catalog of recordings made up of both his own compositions and tons of covers.
While we may think of Willie as the guy behind Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” or singer of monster hits like “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” and “On The Road Again,” he’s also got an affinity for the great American songbook and tunes written by his fellow country singers. And he loves to collaborate. Here are the best Willie songs that may not always appear on your regular rotation.
10. “Three Days”
Later recorded by Faron Young and k. d. lang, this song was buried on the second side of Willie’s debut album, …And Then I Wrote, released in 1962. His original version is more subdued than the version he does with Emmylou Harris here, but its torch style and sorrowful subject made it perfect for Young and lang.
9. “Seaman’s Blues”
This Ernest Tubb song appears alongside a number of other classic country hits on Willie’s 2010 album, Country Music. Using acoustic instruments and a bluegrass-influenced arrangement, “Seaman’s Blues” fit perfectly into the typical Rounder Records sound, where Willie was signed at the time.
8. “No Love At All”
Willie recorded this song on an album that included a number of duets with Waylon Jennings, just after their peak success as The Outlaws. “No Love At All” was originally a Red Lane song, sitting amongst covers by contemporaries like The Eagles and David Allan Coe.
7. “Summer Of Roses”
Still early in his songwriting days, Willie released Yesterday’s Wine, a concept album that included this tearjerker, “Summer Of Roses.” At the time, Willie was in transition, moving back to Texas after his divorce and losing his house to a fire.
6. “If I Were The Man You Wanted”
Paying homage to fellow songwriter Lyle Lovett, Willie is back in heartbreak territory with “If I Were The Man You Wanted”. Unlike Lovett, who injects the song with a more syrupy vocal style and a chorus of backing vocals, Willie uses his trademark slightly delayed, slightly spoken delivery for his version. Willie included this song on Across the Borderline, another collection of covers of songs by Bob Dylan, John Hiatt, and Peter Gabriel.
5. “I Gotta Get Drunk”
While Willie visits more country classics on the album where “I Gotta Get Drunk” shows up (1970’s Both Sides Now), he also brings in some of his own tunes. This one fits right in with the standards by Hank Cochran and A.P. Carter, but contrast his covers of folk singers Joni Mitchell and Fred Neill.
4. “It’s Only Money”
Ever the willing duet partner, Willie teamed up with Merle Haggard yet again for 2015’s Django and Jimmie, here singing the song Willie co-wrote with producer Buddy Cannon.
3. “Take My Word”
The songwriter is really best known for his heartbreaking, sorrowful lyrics, but in a song like “Take My Word,” from his second album, Here’s Willie Nelson, he visits the subject of cheating from the perspective of the faithful accused. The arrangement here is of its time, using a full backing chorus and energetic strings like many of the era’s pop songs.
2. “Everything’s Beautiful”
The album “Everything’s Beautiful” appears on, The Winning Hand, is a collaboration between country’s biggest stars at the time – Willie, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, and Brenda Lee. Taking turns singing in different combinations, the group recorded both their own compositions and well-known country songs. Here, Willie teams up with Dolly – two of the most recognizable country voices together.
1. “Ten With A Two”
Willie isn’t always recognized for his 1990s material, but “Ten With A Two” is country through and through. Combining the sound he became known for in the 70s with the slicker production emerging in new country, this is a snappy tune with fantastic lyrics.