Geraldine Fibbers' Carla Bozulich takes on Willie Nelson
for an artist like the geraldine Fibbers’ Carla Bozulich, who has weathered her share of rough relationships — both business and personal — it seems the Willie Nelson concept album that would have the most meaningful resonance would be his break-up classic from 74, Phases And Stages. “Phases of what?” asks Bozulich from her Los Angeles pad. “I’ve listened to a lot of Willie Nelson’s music, but I don’t know that album.”
That explains why it’s Nelson’s equally brilliant concept follow-up, 75’s Red Headed Stranger, that Bozulich has decided to rework song-by-song on a nightly basis with her long-time guitarist cohort, Nels Cline, and his “Singers,” percussionist Scott Amendolu and bassist Devin Hoff.
What exactly was it about Nelson’s good-man-gone-bad parable that made Bozulich — who grew up as a San Pedro punk listening to just about anything but country music — want to devote the next few months of her life on the road and in the studio to exploring it.
“The Red Headed Stranger album has been a really important part of my life for the last 10 years. It’s been right there with me during all the changes I’ve been through, and I’ve been playing songs from the album the entire time.
“I can relate to the loner anti-hero whom Willie depicts as this rough and dirty character who goes from preacher to murderer yet seems to have a tender and sensitive side that’s ultimately redeeming.”
In the end, the main character is saved by the love of a good woman, which Bozulich admits hasn’t been her experience. But even though she has no problem messing with Willie’s song arrangements, there’ll be no meddling with the lyrics. So the happy Hollywood-style resolution stays as written.
“It’s kinda funny, isn’t it? When you’ve gone that far wrong, it doesn’t seem realistic to meet someone in a bar who makes everything suddenly cool. That would never happen in real life, but I like the fantasy a lot. Maybe I’m just corny that way.
“I don’t think I’d feel right about changing any of the words. I respect Willie as an artist too much for that.
“It’s a fine line I’m walking here, and I know if I’m not careful this could easily seem like a pretentious ego stroke. But Nels and the band understand my sensibility, so no matter how far we might take the music, we’re not trying to be clever or cute.”
And what does Nelson think of some Los Angeles punks reinterpreting his Red Headed Stranger in concert, with an album version due in August? Bozulich has been wondering just that since finding out their paths may cross in Atlanta very soon.
“If he tried typing “Willie Nelson’ and “lyrics’ into his search engine, he’d have been directed to my Web site, www.carlabozulich.com, and know there’s someone touring Red Headed Stranger right now.
“He’d also have seen my request for people to send me the album’s lyrics. I’m so terrible at typing, I thought it would be easier to have someone e-mail me the lyrics so I could just print them off.
“It’s sooooo embarrassing, though, because it looks like someone just gave me the Red Headed Stranger record last week and I decided to play all the songs from it on tour. If Willie comes to a show he’ll probably say, “Hey, not too bad for someone who doesn’t know the words!'”
CARLA BOZULICH with the NELS CLINE SINGERS and DEEP DArk United at the Tequila Lounge (794 Bathurst), Friday (April 12). $9. 416-968-2001.