Paula Nelson Band
by Al Kaufman
It must be a blessing and a curse to be the daughter of outlaw country legend Willie Nelson. Paula Nelson grew up around some of the greatest musicians ever, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, Waylon Jennings, and, of course, Johnny Cash. If just a quarter of all that talent rubbed of, she would be phenomenal.
Yet at the same time, no matter how good she is, people are going to write her off saying she only has a record contract because of her father. Truth is, that may or may not be correct. What's important is what she makes of that chance, and Paula Nelson makes the most of it on her latest CD, Lucky 13.
Nelson barrels out of the gate with "Fire Below," a rollicking bar room rocker that shows off her vocal power, passion, and range. Anyone who doubts her talents should just shut up upon hearing the song.
Nelson's subsequent songs vary from hard, rock-edged country to boogie-woogie to blues. Her ballads, such as "Surrender" demonstrate that she also has a tender, sweet side. Her voice recalls Dolly Parton's, while the finger picking guitar solo is reminiscent of her dad's on "Crazy."
While Nelson proves to be a formidable songwriter, she also respects her elders. Her cover of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery" is almost up there with Bonnie Raitt's cover, with an electric piano solo its only detractor. Her cover of bohemian Rickie Lee Jones' "Easy Money," is just as sassy and sexy. Closer, Leiber and Wheeler's "Jackson," made popular by Johnny and June Carter Cash, is an all out barn burner. Hard to believe someone can generate that much heat singing about a relationship in which the fire went out.
Paula Nelson won't save country music like her father did, but she is certainly a welcome addition to it.
Paula Nelson plays the Atlanta Room of Smith's Olde Bar on Friday, November 14th. 11 pm. $6.