By DONNA BALANCIA
Neil Young made a surprise appearance at the annual Luck Reunion, which this year went to online streaming and starred Willie Nelson, the Nelson family and friends including Paul Simon and Edie Brickell, and Jewel. It’s annually held in Willie Nelson’s backyard in Austin. This online event was pure Texas pride.
As the Austin, Texas-based annual event was not held because of Coronavirus, the bands went online to livestream music from their quarantines around the world, all in the name of charity.
The Nelsons and remote guests did a great job, sometimes despite audio issues.
“Don’t you all forget to stop by the concession stand and pick up a little reserve while you’re out there, it will make this show sound better,” Willie Nelson joked. “Welcome to the quarantine, or the Quaran-Tunes,” he and his sons chimed in.
Willie, Micah and Lukas performed some cool tunes, starting with the famous Johnny Bush song “Whiskey River,” all in acoustic.
“On The Road Again” took on a particularly emotional bent as Willie played with his sons in great harmony. Who knows when we will be on the road again is what they seemed to ask.
“We wanted to say hey and we’re watching the whole thing with you all,” said Micah Nelson, AKA Particle Kid. “Love you all and miss everybody.”
Micah had a feature spot to showcase his own music with the heartfelt and beautiful song “Wheels.” Micah is a warm and enthusiastic musician who has paid his dues despite his famous name. You can catch him in one of his avant-garde and cool performances on the West Side of LA from time to time.
Lukas Nelson played “Set Me Down on a Cloud,” which he said was about “a woman who had a tragedy in her family and asked me to write about it.” He also led the family in “Just Outside of Austin” and “Turn Off The News.” The latter song is especially apropos given our current situation.
“Thanks everybody, artists and everybody for chipping in,” dad Willie Nelson said.
“It’s a great honor to support these charities and thank you for supporting and thank yo uto small business exhibited here as well,” said Lukas Nelson.
Willie signed off to the online audience with the words “Stay Sober.”
Young played “Vampire Blues,” filmed in front of a raging fireplace wearing a plaid flanner shirt, baseball hat and complete with his famous harmonica.
“It’s a little ditty from our sponsor there,” he said. “Actually we’re brought to you by water that’s our sponsor. I hope you can get water whenever you need it.”
The charity effort conjured up memories of the uninterrupted 3-network special of music and poetry by musicians and celebs shortly after 9-11.
Hosted by Ray Benson of the great band Asleep at The Wheel, the hours-long livestream telecast featured the best in Texas entertainment, with veterans and newbies playing a tune or two.
Micah Nelson sang his song “Everything Is Bullshit,” which he played with Young at Arroyo Seco Festival a few years back.
There were other surprise appearances also, including Orville Peck who called in towards the end of the livestream.
He sang the song “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other,” a classic.
“It’s about gay cowboys and I don’t know if y’all know, but I’m a cowboy,” he said. “That’s my mother’s favorite joke.”
The performance of Peck, complete with his famous fringe mask, led Benson to say “OK and then there was that.”
Jewel, looking gorgeous and sounding as superb as ever, sang a few tunes including “Sun’s Gonna Shine.” She looks healthy but said that being homeless brought anxiety. But after she conquered her homelessness it was a feeling of victory.
“I wrote this song while I was homeless,” she said of her hit song, “Hands.”
“I was stealing a lot, it was mostly carrots which is the gateway vegetable,” she said. “Then it was organic apples. Then there was a dress I coveted and saw my reflection and I was a homeless kid who was going to end up in jail if I didn’t turn my life around.
“I watched my hands because they’re the servants of your thought and that was a foray into mindfulness,” she said.
If you are suffering from anxiety, she suggested going to her website JewelNeverbroken.com where there are exercises. With that she played the mega hit “Hands.”
Shovels and Rope, otherwise known as husband and wife couple Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst impressed with their down-homespun music that captures the imagination and adds a touch of levity, pushing the music envelope. Their song, “Hammer” is particularly enjoyable. It’s a guitar and accordion tune.’
Edie Brickell led into her segment with Paul Simon and daughter Lulu with a little song, “Sitting Here In My Quarantine.”
“Sittin here waitin for a virus to pass … sitting here in my Quarantine,” were among the lyrics. She then led a family rendition of “All I Have to Do is Dream,” with Woody Harrelson in tow.
Margo Price and Jeremy Ivey performed “1-800 Jesus” and the real-life couple brought levity with a tape recording of applause that they would hit from time to time. They also had the baby monitor on hand. “We’re all in this together,” Price said.
The second song was “The World’s Greatest Loser” and they played one of Ivey’s popular songs “All Kinds of Blue.”
Price and Ivey told their audience of thousands not to be too blue.
Overall, it was a cozy telecast, with Benson hosting from a warm living room and musicians coming live from all parts of the world. The audio issues and the remote living room locations added to the warmth.
Tami Nielsen performed from a record store in Auckland, N.Z. She played “You Know I Love Ya But I Gotta Let Go” and “Keep On” for her father, who passed away five years ago.
Lucinda Williams said she wanted to “say hello and share the struggles and grief.” She played a song off the new album “Bad News Blues.”
“The stuff we’re going through affects every person, rich poor, every race,” Williams said. “tt’s kind of what they say about roaches. It doesn’t matter if you live in a big mansion or a shack you’re going to have roaches. They don’t discriminate.”
There were Texas crafts people on hand including bartenders and Advent-calendar makers who brought their talents to the screen, but none got more adoration and love than The Hat Man.
“You’re all stuck somewhere, this is Rey Benson telling you you can smoke a joint or have a drink or watch TV, or watch us on the Internet,” Benson said.
Paul Cauthen was the runaway star of the telecast with his gorgeous and emotional “In Love with a Fool,” he has the voice of an angel. If nothhing else the webcast brought these people to the attention of the world.
“God Bless you and be good to one another,” Cauthen said. “I’m gonna have one more sip of this East Texas moonshine.”
He ended with a Pake Rossi tune “The Chill” and it’s great to see Cauthen do justice to this amazing song. Pake Rossi has been long overlooked by the mainstream music world. His romantic and beautiful ballads are the stuff of legends.
Nathaniel Rateliff and Katie Pruitt gave emotional performances, and Courtney Barnett with Lucius and (with the calico cat) brought the harmonies.
For more information go to LuckReunion.com.