LISTEN: Willie Nelson Sings ‘Family Bible,’ One of the Last Songs Recorded with Longtime Drummer Paul English

by Suzanne Halliburton

Call it beautiful, musical DNA. Willie Nelson involved his talented family and band for a terrific new album.

And of course, he branded the album with the best sort of title — The Willie Nelson Family. The album won’t be released until November, about a week before Thanksgiving. However, Nelson gave his fans a tease, Thursday, with the release of Family Bible.

The Willie Nelson album includes performances with Willie’s sister; his two daughters, Paula and Amy and his sons Lukas and Micah. Plus, there are his long-time band members —  drummers Paul English, harmonica player Mickey Raphael and bassist Kevin Smith. English died last year. This is some of the last work he and Nelson did together.

The album includes several of Willie Nelson’s favorite songs, plus some significant covers.

One of those is Kris Kristofferson’s Why Me. It’s Kristofferson’s signature. He wrote it after a Sunday morning redemption experience he had while attending a Nashville church almost 50 years ago.

Nelson also will include the late George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Harrison wrote the song when he was 25, way back in 1968. The Beatles passed on the song for their final Let It Be album. So Harrison turned it into triple-platinum after the band broke up. It’ll be interesting to hear Nelson’s take on it.

Then there’s Hank Williams Sr’s I Saw the Light. Willie Nelson likes to sing the gospel song at his concerts, asking his country music friends to join him. And he loved the song enough to record a cover of it as a duet with Leon Russell back in 1977. Son Lukas also likes to sing it, too.

Willie Nelson and Family Headline Farm Aid This Weekend

Willie Nelson often performs I Saw the Light at his Farm Aid appearances. This year’s Farm Aid is set for this weekend in Hartford, Conn.

Nelson released Family Bible, Thursday. And that’s one of his oldest songs. He started writing it in 1957, recording it for the first time in 1971. The lyrics are meaningful to the Nelson family. He was inspired by his grandmother and her singing of Rock of Ages.

“I can see us sittin’ round the table, when from the family Bible dad would read. I can hear my mother softly singing, rock of ages, rock of ages cleft for me.

“Now this old world of ours is filled with troubles. This old world would also better be, if we’d found more Bibles on the tables and mothers singin’ rock of ages, cleft for me.”

The Willie Nelson Family album also features the final work of Willie with Paul English, his band’s long-time drummer. English joined the band in 1966. And English also did more than perform. He served as Willie’s bodyguard — he’d tuck a .22 in one of his boots.

Enjoy the new version of a classic Willie Nelson song: