By Melinda Newman
Willie Nelson brings his more than 50 years of friendship with Ray Price to For The Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price, out September 16th.
The video above, premiering exclusively on Rolling Stone Country, takes listeners into the recording of the album’s opening track, “Heartaches By the Number,” the Harlan Howard classic that Price took to Number Two in 1959.
The largely black-and-white clip begins with Vince Gill at a piano with Nelson figuring out the right key for himself (as if he has a wrong key). Gill plays guitar on six of the album’s 12 tracks, alongside his fellow members of the Nashville-based western swing outfit, the Time Jumpers.
The video then highlights the recording process, often converting to split screens to show all the musicians as they run through the track. The expanded band, which includes Nelson’s longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael, cut the Price tune live with the musicians playing together in one room — a former stained glass chapel — at Nashville’s Ocean Way Studios. The song may be a heartbreaker, but the warmth of Nelson’s vocals, Gill’s sweet, light backing vocals, and the conviviality of the musicians brighten the mood.
Nelson briefly played bass in Price’s touring band, the Cherokee Cowboys, starting in the early 1960s and wrote and played on Price’s 1963 standard “Night Life,” which Nelson also recorded for the tribute album. Like Nelson, producer Fred Foster and conductor/arranger Bergen White, who appear in the clip, had a long affiliation with Price, including completing the country legend’s final album, Beauty Is… in the same Ocean Way studio, following his death in 2013.
Though Nelson’s tenure in the Cherokee Cowboys was brief, he and Price remained lifelong friends, last recording together for 2007’s Last of the Breed, a double album the duo made with Merle Haggard.
“Ray was as a close a friend as you could have,” Nelson told Rolling Stone Country earlier this year. “We traveled together, lived together, played music together, partied together. . . and had a lot of good times.”