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It was a song Nelson used to play as a disk jockey on Fort Worth radio and it stayed in his head long after.In the spirit of fieldworker blues, gospel, country, and traditional Mexican songs that reverberated through the rows of Texas cotton Nelson picked as a child, it follows an ancient plot.Doomed to wander the countryside alone on his horse, he seeks a redemption that may never be realized.Nelson worked his old ballads into a roster of country standards that, he reckoned, would naturally inhabit the Preacher’s mind.“I could put more emotion in my lyric if I phrased it in a more conversational, relaxed way,” he wrote in 1988.His vocal phrasings snake around the surfaces, altering its inflections, anticipating a beat or falling just behind it; his guitar appears to stretch and shorten the meter without ever breaking it.Nelson converses with the genre’s roots but sends them into uncharted and previously forbidden territory, fusing his essential influences—the tragic brilliance of Hank Williams and the melodic expression of Django Reinhardt.His anti-heroic story has elements of Homeric myth, a moody, Sergio Leone sensibility, the devastating lyrical force of Cormac Mc Carthy, whose Border Trilogy in many ways prefigures.
But to dwell on a reading of primarily as a tale of manhood and waywardness or as one entrenched in bygone notions of America feels dated, particularly if you are anywhere on the margins of that story.Willie Nelson’s 18th studio album, arrived in the world on May Day, 1975, to little fanfare. Two of Nelson’s fellow Texans and country music heroes, Bob Wills and Lefty Frizzell, would die.At the Country Music Awards, Charlie Rich would set fire to the slip of paper that announced John Denver as Entertainer of the Year.Nelson heard Trigger “as a human sound, a sound close to my own voice.” Musically, Nelson has always subverted plain, pure song with utter, starlit mystery.He had an uncanny ability to bend the listener’s perception of time.
The story is one Nelson tells frequently of his Nashville days.