Tag Archives: Willie Nelson

5 Essential Ray Price Songs

On Dec. 16, 2014, country legend Ray Price passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 87 years old, and he left behind a huge catalog of recordings and a musical legacy that is among the most impressive in country music history.

Price was a contemporary (and friend) of Hank Williams, and his early recordings reflect that sharp-edged honky-tonk sound. As the 1950s progressed, though, Price found himself more and more attracted to smoother countrypolitan stylings. You can hear it working its way into songs like “City Lights” and especially on his album Night Life. And it finally comes to full fruition on Price’s 1960s songs such as “Danny Boy” and “For the Good Times” — the latter a Kris Kristofferson composition that Price turned into a signature song.

Price and his band the Cherokee Cowboys developed a dance-friendly rhythm that became known as the ‘Ray Price shuffle.’ The band was an early starting ground, too, for such later legends as Roger Miller, Willie Nelson and Johnny Paycheck.

Price also co-owned Pamper Music, a publishing company that helped boost the careers of Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran, among others.

Price was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. And he continued performing up until very recently, when his health wouldn’t allow it.

Because it spans so many years and includes so many great songs, Price’s catalog is well worth exploring in depth. Below are five key tracks to help you dive in.

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Mermaid Parade

One of the bands that’s been slowly burning its way into my consciousness the past few years is Phosphorescent. It started with their head-turning 2009 album To Willie, which contained all Willie Nelson songs redone with a laid-back approach that both pays tribute to Nelson’s own songwriting and arrangements, but also brings the music inside the circle of 21st century indie-rock. Meaning, Phosphorescent does a fantastic job reinterpreting Nelson’s music with arrangements and voice born from the alt-country side of the tracks, and makes the classic songs like “Too Sick To Pray” and “Pick Up The Tempo” feel fresh all over again.

Listen to the lead track, “Reasons to Quit”–a Nelson song that may have not grabbed your attention before; in the hands of Matthew Houck, however (he’s the main force in Phosphorescent)–with his gently raspy voice that sounds on the verge of breakdown–it’s a clear standout, capturing a moment in time where the characters are teetering on the edge between too much and not enough.

OK, not teetering anymore, they’re slipping into darkness.

Reasons To Quit