When I first heard that Walker Lukens was crafting an album of Willie Nelson covers, my Austinite heart grew three sizes bigger. Lukens is an undefinable artist that has been carving out his space as a tremendous songwriter even long before his moving 2013 debut, Devoted. That said, Red Headed Strangers may be the quintessential example of his shape-shifting musicianship. What Lukens, who claims Red Headed Stranger as the first Willie Nelson album he ever loved, accomplishes on this album is worthy of repeating, as I currently put the album on repeat. Lukens plays musical chairs on each track, finding a way to marry the stripped-down compositions of the country legend to seemingly every genre of popular music you could think of. The album is a billet-doux to Willie Nelson in the most unexpected and unconventional way. The loops and lo-fi notes of the opening track, “Can I Sleep In Your Arms” go down smoother than the finest shot of whiskey. Gotta Get Drunk” is a smooth cut that echoes Paul Simon’s “Diamonds in Her Shoes” and the synth sensibility of LCD Soundsystem. Lukens and Mickey Rose deliver silky harmonies on “I Can Get Off On You” and his haunting interpretation of “Always on My Mind” would fit right into a set at The Roadhouse in the mythical town of Twin Peaks (a compliment in the highest regard.).
Red Headed Strangers is a walk down Sixth Street into every music venue in Austin, and if that isn’t something Willie would appreciate, I don’t know what is.
Red Headed Strangers is available for purchase on October 22, and all proceeds of the album will go to HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians). You can see Walker Lukens perform the Red Headed Strangers album live the same night at Central Machine Works, courtesy of KUTX. The show starts at 6:00 p.m. Socially distanced tables are on sale for CMW’s outdoor space. Kalu James, Stiletto Feels and Sydney Wright will also be performing in what is sure to be a killer show.
The entire show will also be streamed live for anyone who feels more comfortable staying at home. Guests may also give to HAAM during the show. You can purchase a table (for parties up to 8) here or live stream the show at home.