Four beloved Willie Nelson albums getting vinyl releases

Albums to be released during the back half of 2023

In celebration of the legendary Willie Nelson turning 90 this year, several of his beloved albums from the 1990s and 2000s that were never released on vinyl at the time will be pressed on vinyl in a variety of options over the next few months. The releases will kick off June 23rd with his 2002 collaborative album, The Great Divide, followed by 1998’s acclaimed, cinematic, Daniel Lanois-produced Teatro on August 4th in honor of its 25th anniversary. Nelson’s 2000 ode to the blues, Milk Cow Blues, will come on September 15th as a double LP, while 1996’s stripped-back and emotionally raw Spirit will bow on October 20th, just ahead of the American icon’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on November 3rd. The Great Divide and Milk Cow Blues will be making their vinyl debuts while Teatro and Spirit return to vinyl due to popular demand after being available in limited capacity but now long out-of-print.

All albums will be available on 180-gram black vinyl as well as a limited edition color variant on 140-gram vinyl, exclusively available at uDiscover Music and The Great Divide and Spirit will be pressed on clear vinyl while Teatro and Milk Cow Blues will be on translucent red vinyl and orange vinyl respectively.

The Great Divide, released in 2002 on Lost Highway, saw Willie duetting and collaborating with an incredible roster of artists from across the musical spectrum for a rousing collection of originals and covers for his 50th studio album. Joined by a diverse group of songwriters, singers and musicians, including Alison Kraus, Bonnie Raitt, Brian McKnight, Kid Rock, Lee Ann Womack, the album features such highlights as the Rob Thomas-penned duet, “Maria (Shut Up And Kiss Me),” and the Lee Ann Womack-starring “Mendocino County Line,” co-written by Elton John’s lyricist Bernie Taupin who also co-wrote “This Face.” Other standouts include covers of Mickey Newbury’s “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” Cyndi Lauper’s signature tune, “Time After Time,” and the title track which sees Willie taking the lead for a Spanish-tinged original. The record comes to a stirring conclusion with Willie and Bonnie Raitt reflecting on regret and the passage of time in the aching “You Remain.” The album peaked at No. 5 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart on the strength of singles “Mendocino County Line” hitting No. 22 and “Maria (Shut Up And Kiss Me)” reaching No. 41 on the Hot Country Songs charts.

Willie’s 45th album, Teatro, released in 1998 on Island, found the ever-restless musical innovator working with producer Daniel Lanois to create a lush, cinematic gem of a record. Fittingly recorded live in an old, unused movie theatre in Oxnard, California, prominently displayed on the cover, the album mostly features Willie reinventing to great effect a number of songs he first wrote in the 1960s, including 1962’s “I’ve Just Destroyed The World” and “Three Days” and 1968’s “I Just Can’t Let You Say Goodbye.” With longtime friend and frequent collaborator Emmylou Harris at his side for 11 of the 14 tracks, Teatro showcases Willie’s versatility as he effortlessly transitions between country, folk, and blues, delivering each song with a profound sense of sincerity while experimenting with new sounds and sonic textures. Willie and Emmylou’s take on Lanois’ “The Maker” would be worth the price of admission alone but that’s just one standout among many. Accompanied by a nine-piece band that included Willie’s sister, Bobbie Nelson, on piano, the group conjure up an atmosphere informed by the howling harmonicas and mariachi bands of spaghetti western soundtracks, resulting in an album quite unlike any other in Willie’s catalog.

Released in 2000 on Island, Willie’s 48th studio album, Milk Cow Blues, was his heartfelt homage to the blues. With his trademark vocals and dexterous guitar playing, Willie, backed by the Antone’s blues band and his trusty harmonica player, Mickey Raphael, delivers a captivating collection of blues standards and original compositions, including remarkable blues renditions of some of his classics and earliest cuts. The 15-track album features Willie joined by blues legends B.B. King for his timeless hit, “The Thrill Has Gone,” Dr. John on the slow rolling “Black Night,” and vocalist Francine Reed on Willie’s “Funny (How Time Slips Away)” and the scene-setting title track, with the vocalist transforming both into soulful laments. A who’s who of the genre’s modern-day torchbearers such as Keb Mo, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang and Susan Tedeschi display their blues chops alongside Willie, from Tedeschi belting on Willie’s immortal “Crazy” and Lang, Mo and Shepherd playing up a storm of blues guitar on “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” “Outskirts Of Town,” and “Texas Flood.” Willie digs deep into his catalog to revisit some of his earliest songs, including “Rainy Day Blues” (with Lang) and “Night Life” (with King) which were released in 1960 by Paul Buskirk and His Little Men featuring Hugh Nelson (aka Willie). Critics praised the record, with Rolling Stone exclaiming, “like everything else he plays, Nelson’s blues are unforced and natural,” adding, “the result is emotionally rich, musically savory and languidly blue from end to end.” Texas Monthly meanwhile said the “gorgeous solo reading of Bob Wills’ ‘Sittin’ on Top of the World’ that should forever bridge the gap between western swing and blues winds up being the album’s most spine-tingling moment.”

Spirit, released in 1996 on Island as his 44th studio album, saw the songwriter return to his roots for what critics deemed his most focused album of that decade. Self-produced and featuring a stripped back band – Willie and Jody Payne on guitars, Bobbie Nelson on piano, and legendary country fiddler Johnny Gimble (Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys), Willie, as All Music wrote “weaves a tapestry, a song cycle about brokenness, loneliness, heartbreak, spiritual destitution, and emerging on the other side.” The 12 original compositions delve into themes of love, loss, redemption, and the human experience and showcase Willie’s well-traveled voice and Spanish-inflected guitar playing, accompanied by sparse instrumentation; the antithesis to the kind of country music that dominated the airwaves in the mid ‘90s. Some of the many highlights include “I’m Not Trying To Forget You Anymore,” “Too Sick To Pray” and “I Thought About You, Lord.” While well received upon release, Spirit has only grown in stature over the years as it continues to be discovered and revisited by new and longtime fans alike. In 2020, Texas Monthly ranked it No. 10 when ranking Willie’s more than 150 albums, a jaw-dropping mix of studio recordings, live albums and anthologies.

Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn

Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: