Longford Leader columnist, Mattie Fox
Willie Nelson suffered a serious health setback a few months ago, and it was immediately reported on the internet that he’d died!
I've always been an admirer of Nelson, and on hearing the news I called a friend in Nashville, who's in the Grand Ole Opry, who told me it wasn't true. But he confirmed that Willie was indeed, hospitalised, but was expected to recover completely. I followed by phoning Willie’s agent in Nashville, who confirmed what had happened.
Awhile later, after Willie had re-emerged into the wider world once again, he recorded a complete album marking the time that was in it.
He was definitely heralding the impending end of life and his sense of mortality, but he gleefully accepted the opportunity to launch a commentary on the sensationalising of his health news.
He wrote a song called Woke Up Still Not Dead…….
“I woke up still not dead again today,
The internet said I had passed away,
But if I died I wasn't dead to stay,
An’ I woke up still not dead again today”……..
Now many people outside (or indeed very many inside) the country music area have heard the song, but it’s been covered by The Three Amigos, who give it a great interpretation, although they continue to believe that they must cater for the dancing audience, despite a great recording. Hence it's a shade too boisterous, a tad too suffocated by the ever-busy backing, but it's well recorded, and the singing is impeccable.
However, the subtlety and delicacy of musicians thinking and ‘playing for the song’, is hard for Irish musicians to encompass - despite each of them being at the top of their own individual game.
In Nashville or Texas they musicians submerge themselves into the overall background and always, always, play ‘for the song’.
On Willie’s recording we hear a lick here, a lick there, with very little happening in between. The drumming is further back in the recording.
Not better really, but a subtler, quite different mix.
Sometimes less is more.
The Amigos are a product suffering from their own respective individual success, whereby they feel lost in a sort of limbo between full blown Country, and the Irish version which is rooted firmly in dance band land.
The end result is that the group who are oozing sheer talent, are doomed to remain as everyday work-a-day performers constrained by the security of their respective careers.
Maybe nothing wrong with that, of course.
Three extremely talented men, who could really blaze the route of international appeal, and if that happened they’d wipe the boards with everyone else in Ireland, in the country scene.
But it's perfectly understandable, although a contradiction in terms, that they feel compelled to “mind the home crowd” first and foremost.
Really understandable, but a great pity. The Amigos could have been a massive act, internationally, if only they could detach, step back, and look at things a different way.
Mind you, it would take a serious temporary period - and supreme belief - to do this while making very little money, before the real business would begin. They'd need to change their name, first off.
Anyway that won't happen, and, sure, maybe they’re right.
It’s easy to claim this and that, just because one believes in the quality and ability of the group. Not so easy, however, to make the decision to give up the certainty of home security and perhaps take a one or two years semi-break, while ploughing new ground.
The Amigos are the best country act in the Irish firmament, that is without a doubt. Beyond contradiction.
They’re touring Ireland in early 2018.
The Amigos’ Still Not Dead is still a great single, by any standards.
Catch the best act in Ireland, you’ll see what I mean.