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Willie Gets No Leaf

July 15, 2005

Willie Nelson's newest release Countryman (which came out on Tuesday on the Lost Highway label) is a mix of honky-tonk and ganja as Nelson adds his touch to reggae songs and adds a little of the islands to some country favorites. The result is getting mixed reviews, with All Music Guide calling it "woefully out of whack." The CD design is causing controversy of its own. Lost Highway (part of the Universal Music Group Nashville stable) got cold feet after seeing Countryman's original cover spiked with pot leaves and has released a second version to Wal-Mart stores with palm trees instead (no comment on the influence actual weed may have had on the creation of the album).

Posted by Ann VerWiebe at July 15, 2005 3:33 PM


Comments

Willie's love for the bud is no secret, he might be the only celeb around who has actually, by his account, toked up on the White House roof.

Sad comment that the cover design had to be altered for WalMart, just another sign of how effectively corporate music has been neutered since its roots in the long-ago counterculture. Now it sells nice, safe, watered-down rebellion, something that won't offend all of those industrious store managers.

Personally I prefer bourbon or a nice single malt, but find it strange that the same act of Congress that made those beverages illegal during Prohibition is the one that outlawed reefer. Only the booze part was repealed, because the distilling industry had "juice".

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at July 15, 2005 4:01 PM

I got a good laugh from Ann VerWiebe's suggestion that there may have been some smoking going on during the studio sessions, but I wasn't laughing about WalMart's ability to influence the CD cover. I can afford to (and do) shop elsewhere, but I know there are many who can't.

Posted by: Fred McKinney at July 17, 2005 8:46 AM

I believe there are few that "can't" afford not to shop at Wal Mart. It's true that WalMart moves into small towns and kills any small shops (or responsible large stores) in the vicinity often leaving themselves as the only option. However, supporting WalMart is just breeding poverty elsewhere and I think that living in America and usually having options on where to shop just gives people a responsibility to think about whether they are just too lazy and selfish to drive the extra block (or God forbid extra mile!) to avoid supporting WalMart.
And that is my take on WalMart, sorry... I had to say something. Not to bash you Fred, it's great to hear you don't shop at "that place" where there's Always Low Wages...Always :)

Then again, I'm guessing that I'm preaching to the choir.

Posted by: Ann Barnes at July 18, 2005 10:01 AM

I think it's a misconception that WalMart is always the cheapest (an identification that may come back to bite them - ask Sears and K-Mart). Amazon is selling the CD for only $1 more (there's shipping - but no sales tax). I have an independent record store near-by that sells their CDs for around what Amazon does - a lot cheaper than Borders - and, because they can stock whatever they want, it's a great selection. They do special orders as well. I do have to say that the daughter of one of my co-workers works at WalMart and it has been a positive life-changing thing for her.

Posted by: Ann VerWiebe at July 18, 2005 10:29 AM

Personally, I think the Palm Tree cover is hilarious. Country Men and Palm Trees really go well together. Good 'ol Wal-Mart at it again. At least Willie didn't sell his soul and release a Wal-Mart only single via Bon Jovi. Ugh!

Posted by: Chris Boros at July 18, 2005 10:54 AM

I work part-time at a Mom&Pop CD store in PA - one more reason that I decided to boycott our Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores.

We had the new Willie in the player last week, and I like it. Great to hear some new tunes from him!

Posted by: Ramona LaBarre at July 18, 2005 12:40 PM

Regarding Ann's comment about a co-worker's daughter working at Wal Mart: Of course there are plenty of examples where having a job, structure and nice co-workers have helped an individual. Heck - there are people who say prison did wonders for them. That has nothing to do with the many serious issues regarding Wal Mart, including its policies toward workers and heath care, the effect it has on local communities, and its policy of music censorship - just to name a few. I have a co-worker whose husband might lose his job due to pricing pressure from Wal Mart, and the fact they don't have to provide any level of customer service other than minimum wage workers.

Posted by: Robert J. Burford at July 18, 2005 1:37 PM

Everyone always hates the guy on top.

Obviously Wal Mart is doing something right and they will be on top until they do too many things wrong. Then we will hate the company that knocks them off the top.

I rather enjoy the competition that Wal Mart brings to my community.

I have heard the all too familiar preaching "buy local" too many times. I don't see my money staying local anyway. Too many times have I seen myself buying local at inflated prices so the owners of the local shops can spend their profits on vacations to Aruba, Jamaica, or drive to the nearest Super Wal Mart themselves to get their groceries at lower prices.

Many times I see the local shops selling their goods for 3 to 4 times what I would pay for something at Wal Mart. If they purchased the goods from Wal Mart and charged me double I might think about buying local but the local shops are not even in the ballpark many times.

If the mom and pop shops are truly providing better service than Wal Mart the people will buy their stuff there, and the mom and pops will have nothing to worry about. If the mom and pops are loosing market share to Wal Mart they better change the way they do business rather than complain that it is unfair.

As for Willie and the Palm Trees. If you don’t like it (the palm trees or the pot plants) don’t buy it. They will get the idea.

Posted by: Steve Merkling at July 18, 2005 3:14 PM

I don't go to the Walmart near me mostly because the place is trashed out. Nobody seems to pick up any of the messes made by the unruly customers who come in and let their kids go berserk riding things down the aisles and pulling things off the shelves and strewing them about. Then there are the adults who fill up carts with stuff and decide at the cash register that they don't want it and walk away leaving all of it behind for someone else to put it all back.

I would like to believe that I have nobler intentions, but the truth is, my family cannot afford to pay higher prices for merchandise all the time just to support local business, but I do try to go to locally owned businesses when I can. There is a level of service that cannot be met by the larger outlets, most of the time.

Posted by: Jack Swain at July 18, 2005 6:13 PM

I damage WalMart's reputation by hanging out in their aisles shopping for cheap stuff, in a tank top two sizes too small for me and cutoff shorts that show off my varicose veins and support socks.

Yep, I'm a babe magnet.

Smell bad, too. That'll larn'em!

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at July 18, 2005 7:56 PM

It's a complicated issue, like most things these days. I probably shouldn't admit it, but I'm a retired Autoworker, and WalMart's anti-union stance rubs me the wrong way. My daughter is in sales at General Mills and respects WalMart for its business smarts, as I'm sure stockholders do as well. My brother knows a woman who lost a higher paying job and feels fortunate to have been hired by WalMart. My dad told me of a TV program that showed a manufacturing firm in southern Asia, Bangladesh I believe, that wanted to charge WalMart a penny more for a product to provide some benefits for its workers. WalMart responded by telling them they had to cut the price by two cents per piece. The ideas behind NAFTA seemed reasonable in the '90's, but globalization is/has drained many manufacturing jobs from the US, and especially NE Ohio. I think this was inevitable, but it's another complicating factor.

Posted by: Fred McKinney at July 19, 2005 10:26 AM

I just moved and there's a Wal-Mart four minutes from my house. Normally, I would venture to Target, for its cleanliness, or a smaller establishment for the better atmosphere. But when you need a trash can, paper towels, a vacuum, dishes, glasses, pots and pans, food, bathroom stuff, an air conditioner, and anything else you might need for the home at super cheap prices, all you have is Wal-Mart and I gotta say, they came through for me. Here's my biggest problem though: here's a place where you can't get Willie Nelson's pot plant album cover, Howard Stern's book, or any record with a parental advisory sticker on it--but if you want a "Shot Gun"--no problem! How bout a rifle? Need some bullets with that? My Wal-Mart shopping list: toothpaste, aspirin, underwear, shoes, batteries and.......a shot-gun. That's just sick.

Posted by: Chris Boros at July 19, 2005 10:44 AM

Fred, the truth is that in the larger picture, we are only pass-through accounts for a handful of people world-wide who give us just enough to make sure that it all keeps flowing into their coffers. Nafta and other trade pacts will help to level the playing field for third world countries so that greater wealth can pass through more accounts into the coffers of those same handful of people who keep taking it in. While Americans suffer from the process, more expendable cash is put into the hands of more people overall, therefore providing a larger number of pass-through accounts and further increasing the wealth of the elite few. It is an odd paradox, but by raising the general levels of income across a bigger population worldwide, it actually results in a wider gap between the very rich and the poor.

Posted by: Jack Swain at July 19, 2005 11:17 AM

I am compelled to respond to the Walmart issue. I am forty seven years old and remember a time when neighbor really cared about neighbor. Mom and Dad cared to stay home with their families and bond. My parents struggled but I remember my father telling us that quality was better than quantity. We didn't get new shoes every season but once a year and they lasted. Proudly made by craftsmen in the USA. That pride is gone at the expense of pure greed. Now, Mom, dad and neighbor are shopping at Walmart and can't get enough of their cheap trinkets. Do they care that they may be affecting someone else? Do they care that they may be cancelling someone's job in their local economy? Some do, many don't. I am in the furniture industry and see the mad rush to China to replace the manufacturing jobs in this country. These companies are following the Walmart mantra. Try telling a homeless family in North Carolina that you need your two cents cheaper toothpaste and toilet paper. I say you should be ashamed of yourself.

Posted by: Diane Beauregard at July 19, 2005 2:26 PM

I'm forty-seven too, grew up in North Carolina, and I must be a cynic because I can't recall a time in America when neighbors cared all that much more about one another than they do now.

Only one or two generations of Americans ever had a true retirement anyhow. I sure won't see one, I'll work til I drop, and so what? I like working.

Face it - the Third World caught up with us. Raise your skill levels, lower your expectations, and make the best of it.

Who knows? Maybe we'll get lucky and die before our money runs out.

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at July 19, 2005 4:54 PM

When the Walmart issue pops up, I can’t help getting my two cents in. I think it may be a fine line between “they guy on top” and a bully. I do not see too many redeeming qualities about Wal Mart, unless you’re talking to Sam Walden or a stockholder. They appear to be at the top of the “consumer food chain”, manipulating unaware shoppers to purchase more than they need- or intended to buy. This not only effects the environment, communities who protest the construction of their “super centers”, but the fabric of our culture. A friend of mine lost his photo finishing and camera shop when Wal Mart went up a few blocks away. That business was started by his parents and was his bread and butter to support his family. Are we willing to have homogenized products, put our neighbors out of business and allow this corporation to bully it’s way into communities that do not want it? All to save a few bucks?

Posted by: Shannon McDaniel at July 20, 2005 1:21 AM

Apparently, yes. There is no philosophy more pitiless than laissez-faire capitalism. Unless it is altruistic socialism, which starved millions to death last century.

Face it, we humans don't have a clue how to govern ourselves. WalMart might be a symptom, but it darn sure ain't the cause.

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at July 20, 2005 1:37 AM

Very well said Jim.

Posted by: Shanon McDaniel at July 20, 2005 2:18 PM

Well, we have a Walmart Supercenter now in my town of 15,000. Walmart has been here for over thirty five years now. Has it 'changed' our town? Certainly. Local business people have gone into new lines of products and marketing. Variety stores have become antique shops. Hardware stores have become the place to go to find everything Walmart does not carry, (and they do not carry a lot!) Grocery stores and old-fashioned pharmacies (draft root beer in a copper mug and bannana splits) have not really suffered. And fashionable clothing you want to wear for special occasions (tailored) are a booming business. Crafts, art, and music/video are everywhere and thriving. If it is late and you need something fast and cheap, Wally World is there. This one serves an entire rural county. It is hardly 'wiping out' the local country stores. With the price of gas now, it is hard to save on anything if you have to drive thirty-forty miles to get it. I could probably find Willy's new album in it's original cover a block from my house. But I don't know if I would like the music. I'll listen to someone else's before I buy one. (wink) And the 'wicked weed' shouldn't surprise anyone as old as I am.

Posted by: Thomas at July 20, 2005 11:31 PM

Hey, sweet. Go Wal Mart, Go Bush, Go Nike, GO SLAVE LABOR, because it makes my life easier.

Posted by: Ann Barnes at July 21, 2005 2:33 PM

Here are two reasons why I will never shop at a Walmart anywhere. When they moved into the town where my step-dad owns a successful hardware store, they came into his store with a video arrogantly saying, "This will show you how to compete with us or we'll put you out of business." He told them to shove it. Ten years later, his hardware store is still thriving, but you can't say the same for many other small businesses in the area.

The second reason, and most important to me, is they came into a beautiful town in the Sierra foothills of California, bulldozed acre after acre of rolling hills filled with mature oak trees. They flattened it to put in their Walmart superstore. I had the misfortune of driving through the parking lot (I was the passenger). It felt like desecrated holy ground. Shameful.

So, when I buy Willie's new one, it won't be from Walmart.

Posted by: Lucy Lyons at July 22, 2005 12:02 PM

Well, OK - but the construction won't stop. Want to know what the West will look like in 50 years? Go to Bayonne, New Jersey. The only "holy ground" worshipped by big biz is inside their bank vaults.

You can't shame the shameless, and we can't go back to an agrarian, rural economy - unless you're willing to cap the three or four billion fellow humans currently headed for a suburb near YOU.

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at July 22, 2005 5:31 PM

God help us all. I have just learned that Sam Walton was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Pres. Bush... Freedom for who?

Posted by: Shanon McDaniel at July 22, 2005 5:44 PM

What has Walmart done that every other national (worldwide) chain retail outfit has and does not do, except be more successful at it than any of the others? All losers hate winners. We love 'free interprise'....except when someone beats us at it. Like Walmart (or the Japanese). OK,..what 'laws' do we pass to say how successful any business is allowed to be? What laws do we pass against Bill Gates?

Posted by: Thomas at July 23, 2005 4:35 AM

Again, I agree wholeheartedly with Jim when he said this all is a symptom of a larger problem. What is that problem? Why do we need laws to tell us what we “can get away” with?

“What has Wal-Mart done that every other national (worldwide) chain retail outfit has and does not do..." That must make it all ok…right?

Posted by: Shannon McDaniel at July 23, 2005 9:25 AM

The fact that Walmart and its ilk aren't going away doesn't mean we have to like it or rationalize its behavior.

Posted by: Fred McKinney at July 23, 2005 1:44 PM

I'm sure the Cherokee thought exactly the same way when my folks first waded ashore.

When the wave of the future breaks, some folks ride it and some get washed out of the way.

Many riding it don't even know they're riding it, while those being washed out of the way have a more immediate perception.

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at July 23, 2005 2:26 PM

The Wal-Mart executives are the ones who need a few tokies on the vine. They should take a tip from Willie and relax a bit, and maybe sell some products actually made in the U.S. If I were Willie, I would refuse to sell my albums in that corporate dungeon of greed which is Wal-Mart.
--Jason
bennettfolk.com

Posted by: Jason Bennett at July 23, 2005 6:28 PM

well,..not trying to get too political, here, but for the last several decades, many unskilled and semi-skilled workers in the U.S. have been pressing (with a great deal of motivation from their unions) to make what was once considered skilled or professional wages/salaries. Gosh,...do you think that might affect the price of the goods they produce? Yeah,..I think so (Econ 103). Why is this not a required course in all schools? And as to "slave labor",...how can anyone presume to call the workers in other countries 'slaves'. Why? Because they don't make the same U.S. dollar wage? Do you know the word *inflation*? Do you know what it can do do any country's economy? Simple. My wages/salary is tripled. Then, the cost of all my necessities also triple. Too bad for the rest of those poor folks whose income did not get tripled. Hey, I got mine. Get the picture?

Posted by: tom at July 25, 2005 4:52 AM

Acres of pristine forest were bulldozed in my area also recently. It was for a new power plant. We needed it badly. The hospital has also added a new wing. It took away an ancient oak grove. No one complained about either. We still have our mountains and forests. They will be there long after we are gone.

Posted by: tom at July 25, 2005 6:23 AM

Acres of pristine forest were bulldozed in my area also recently. It was for a new power plant. We needed it badly. The hospital has also added a new wing. It took away an ancient oak grove. No one complained about either. We still have our mountains and forests. They will be there long after we are gone.

Posted by: tom at July 25, 2005 6:24 AM

Sorry for the double post. Don't know what happened. I guess what I was getting at is that esthetics is in the eye of the beholder. People see what they want to see. If they 'like' the new thing, they get over the old one. If they don't like the new one, they talk about how much better the old one was,...whatever it was. Many years ago, there was a river that flooded the area here often, causing much damage. The gov. built a flood control dam. Some old timers who lived upstream said the area just wasn't the same anymore, and the dam was ugly. Those downstream loved the dam, for obvious reasons. I was downstream. I like the dam.

Posted by: tom at July 25, 2005 6:45 AM

Yes, there is something we can do. Just say No! DON'T SHOP AT WALMART! I agree, Willie should have refused to sell his cd through Walmart.

Just for the record for econ 101: There are several forms of slavery you sight only one, chattel (ownership of a person). Check the definition of slavery: Slavery is any of a number of related conditions involving control of a person against his or her will, enforced by violence or other clear forms of coercion.

Walmart factories certainly fit the latter definition.

Posted by: Diane Beauregard at July 25, 2005 8:18 AM

There are more slaves - real, old-fashioned bought-and-sold-and-chained-to-the-wall slaves - in the world now that at any time in history. They cut diamonds for deBeers in India, pick coffee beans in Uganda, tan furs in Central Asia, and provide sexual favors (male and female) across Africa, Eastern Europe - and America.

Slave labor is very real - especially with the Chinese, who have been known to disguise and market goods made in North Korean slave labor camps (particularly tanned furs) as "Made in China" to help out their old ally.

There are at lease 250,000 laborers in those camps, and they rarely come home.

There even might be slaves in your own neighborhood - illegal immigrants held for ransom by smugglers, or paying off their "transit fee" with sex or hard labor while being held by force.

But that is another topic. Personally, I don't give a hang where Willie sells his CD, and I'm betting he has absolutely no choice in the matter.

You don't free slaves with boycotts, you just encourage their owners to "cull the herd" to cut back on expenses.

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at July 25, 2005 11:45 PM

OK,..someone stop me..I can't seem to help myself..(wink). Reality check #3: Walmart factories?? Walmart, K-Mart, May Co., etc don't own factories. They buy from factories. And where did the myth begin that "Mom and Pop" bought "All-American"? They bought from giant warehouse outlets that also bought from Japan, China, Korea, Mexico. I remember them on the lables way back in the fifties. I told you I was an old dude. What Walmart did was eliminate the middle man. "Why should we buy from them?...We can have our own warehouse."...Pretty basic smarts. And who thinks American business can survive by only selling to Americans? And if we don't buy from other countries,...how do we sell them anything? Ok, I'm off this thread. See you in Econ 101, tomorrow morning. (wink).

Posted by: tom at July 27, 2005 2:00 AM

'bye tom. Hope you get that eye looked at.

Posted by: Jim Pipkin at July 27, 2005 8:46 AM

"After Wal-Mart was found breaking the law on child labor [again], the government fined the company a measly $135,000 (and change) and signed a deal with Wal-Mart that says "Next time we want to investigate what laws you might be breaking, we’re going to tell you about the investigation before we do it"—just to give you enough time to cover your tracks, shred documents or muddle the trail."

I hate WalMart.

Who sings the song "What would Willie do?" That's a good one.

Posted by: Ann Barnes at July 28, 2005 2:34 PM

I hate Saks Fifth Avenue!

Posted by: Thomas at July 29, 2005 8:28 AM

I hate shopping!

Posted by: Linda Fahey at August 4, 2005 10:22 PM

There are some better chains than Walmart -- Costco marks up its goods a set percentage (truly passing along the savings to you), pays a decent wage, and has decent benefits. The result has been one of the lowest turnover and employee theft rates in the industry.

It can be done.

Posted by: Klint McKay at August 13, 2005 9:58 AM

Funny how a topic about Willie's new cd got diverted to the economics of Walmart, and to the point where the issue of Willie's music was completely forgotten. This is an example of why I have become apolitical. Folk music is a more pleasant wavelength to be on.

Posted by: William Dumas at September 13, 2005 11:20 PM

I always have to laugh when earnest folkies get all riled up about WalMart and all those other "horrible corporations" and then trot right out and buy the new CD on Capitol or Warner or Sony..or even Rounder. All the labels are basically a corporation overseen and distributed by Universal entertainment. I realize that Universal is, of course, not affecting as many jobs and lives as WalMart, but it still strikes me as odd that a folk MUSIC site fails to see the irony of this tediously ongoing debate while hundreds (thousands) of musicians and writers are squeezed out or shut down by corporate entertainment industry.

Posted by: Susie at September 20, 2005 9:13 AM

I'm a long-time (retired) union member, and I think if Woody Guthrie was still alive, folks might remember that it was his spreading of union information that was the salvation of this country. Walmart is not in my county yet, but it is in the next county and the once-thriving local stores are now a picture of urban blight. A Main St. with boarded-up stores is not a pretty sight. Walmart is nothing but a symbol of greed at the expense of those who have little or nothing, like latter-day plantations. Their business practices make me sick and their exploitation of their foreign workers will make it impossible for the US to gain any friends in this world.

Posted by: Ilene Thompson at September 22, 2005 4:35 PM

Hey Ann, Gary Allen sings "What would Willie do", and it is a great song. If you're a Willie fan you should check it out. Go Willie!

Posted by: Gary Cooper at September 26, 2005 10:33 AM

Hey Ann, Gary Allen sings "What would Willie do", and it is a great song. If you're a Willie fan you should check it out. Go Willie!

Posted by: Gary Cooper at September 26, 2005 10:33 AM

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