My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Willie Nelson & Ray Price – ‘San Antonio Rose’

nelson priceThe Urban Cowboy days of the early 1980s are justifiably criticized as an era in which country music was drowning in a sea of pop influences and overproduction and on the brink of losing touch with its roots. While that may sound a lot like an assessment of the contemporary country scene, the key difference is that thirty-odd years ago, it was still possible for tradition-based music by artists past the age of 45 to find an outlet on the radio and have a shot at success.

In 1980, Ray Price was 54 years old when he teamed up with Willie Nelson for San Antonio Rose, a collection of classic songs that drew heavily upon the back catalogs of both artists, as well as the discography of Bob Wills. In 1961 Willie had performed as a musician on Price’s Wills tribute album of the same title. Nearly two decades later, Willie’s star power was able to provide Price with a brief commercial resurgence. San Antonio Rose was produced by Willie himself, and released as a side project between his solo albums Electric Horseman and Honeysuckle Rose. Like many of Willie’s projects, it became a success despite appearing as though it would not have much commercial viability.

In addition to the title track, the album contains two Bob Wills covers, the Fred Rose-penned “Deep Water” and “Faded Love”, which served as the album’s sole single. This was the first version of “Faded Love” that I ever heard and it is still a favorite today. It reached #3 on the Billboard country singles charts, returning Ray Price to the Top 10 for the first time since 1975’s “Roses and Love Songs”. Of course “Faded Love” had been recorded by a number of other artists, including Patsy Cline, who is also memorialized by the duo’s cover of “I Fall To Pieces”, which was written by Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran.

Cochran also wrote “Don’t You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me)”, which had been a hit for Price in 1965. It appears here as a duet, along with other Ray Price hits such as “Release Me” (1954), “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)” (also 1954), “Crazy Arms” (1956), and the jazzy “Night Life” (1963), which had been written by Willie along with Walt Breeland and Paul Buskirk. Willie’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” is also covered. “Just Call Me Lonesome”, a cover of an old Eddy Arnold hit, was added to 2008 Legacy Recordings re-release.

Even in 1980, San Antonio Rose didn’t offer anything new, but it was then, as it is now, a breath of fresh air amongst all the pop-laden material on the charts. In addition to pairing one of country music’s best known icons with one of its most under-appreciated vocalists, it is a real treat for steel guitar fans and fans of good country music in general. Nelson and Price would team up in the studio two more times for 2003’s Run That By Me One More Time and 2007’s Last of the Breed, a collaboration with Merle Haggard. San Antonio Rose, however, remains my favorite of the albums they made together.

Grade: A+

2 responses to “Album Review: Willie Nelson & Ray Price – ‘San Antonio Rose’

  1. Paul W Dennis October 29, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    This has been one of my favorite albums since I first purchased it in 1981 . Crystal Gayle joins Ray and Willie on “Faded Love” for the sublime vocal trio chorus.

    THis album may not have been anything new but it was everything great

  2. jim sullivan January 7, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Is there an existing karaoke track of Ray and Willie’s arrangement of “San Antonio Rose”? – I love that arrangement but the only versions I find are Patsy Cline’s;s and Bob Wills’ which, although nostalgic, are a bit archaic.

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