(Atlantic Records, 1974)
I have a ton of country records, but I’ve neglected them over the past couple years–even Willie, whom I love more than most things. But a live DJ set last night over at The Days of Lore Facebook page (which was an absolute drunken, fun and hilarious three and a half hours) prompted some requests for Kenny Rogers (rest in peace, gambler), Dolly Parton and, of course, Willie Nelson. Phases and Stages is, and always has been, my favorite Willie record, which came at his absolute creative peak in the early-’70s. It’s a concept album about a breakup, from the vantage-point of both the man and the woman. There are some pretty biting moments, like “Pretend I Never Happened” (“You will not want to remember any love as cold as mine”) and “It’s Not Supposed to Be That Way,” as well as a couple of fantastic bar-boogie shakers like “Sister’s Coming Home”/”Down At the Corner Beer Joint” and the day-drinking classic “Bloody Mary Morning.” Throughout are lovely instrumental refrains that serve as the connective tissue to the stories. It’s one of Willie’s best. And I’m glad I dusted it off, because it’s a beautiful record, by a beautiful man.