Backed by harmonica player Mickey Raphael and the out-of-time swagger of his own acoustic guitar, Willie Nelson pays homage to fellow Highwayman Kris Kristofferson and longtime friend during a fresh episode of Austin City Limits.
Taped October 12th and premiering this New Year Eve on PBS, the TV special shines a light not only on Kristofferson, but on 2016’s whole class of ACL Hall of Fame inductees, including Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King.
“Busted flat in Baton Rogue, headin’ for the trains,” Nelson begins, kicking off his cover of Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” with a half-sung, half-spoken verse. From there, Nelson leads his makeshift band through a rowdy, revised version of the tune, with Kristofferson – recast as the group’s rhythm guitarist – grinning from stage and strumming along.
Crucial lines are punctuated by Nelson with fits of sound from his beat-to- hell instrument, Trigger, and steals the performance with a rough-edged guitar that swoons one minute and rocks like the town drunk the next. Imperfect, the performance targets the chemistry between two country idols who share more than a half-century’s worth of history, with both legends tipping their hats to one another.