For more than half of her 76 years, Bobbie Nelson has been making music alongside her little brother Willie by supporting him with a utilitarian piano style that covers the bases from gospel and honky-tonk to rock, swing, and classical. So it should be no surprise that her only sibling helps open and close her debut solo recording by singing along with her chosen instrument on two solemn, very sweet ballads (“Back To Earth” and “Til Tomorrow”).
The revelations are the ten songs sandwiched between those bookends. “Pinetop’s Boogie” is a jumpy little barrelhouse number attributed to nonagenarian and fellow Austin resident Pinetop Perkins. Two tracks, “Crazy” and “Stardust”, are reprisals of songs associated with brother Willie. There’s some of the boogie-woogie for which Bobbie was famous back at Abbott High School on “Death Ray Boogie”, “12th Street Rag”, and “House Of Blue Lights”, as well as delicate romance numbers she polished back when she worked Austin’s piano lounge circuit (“Deep Purple”, “Sabor A Mi”, “Laura”). And there’s her signature piece in the Willie Nelson & Family Show, “Down Yonder”.
As performed on the Bosendorfer piano, the selections demonstrate why the kids the Nelsons grew up with back home always thought Miss Bobbie was the one destined for stardom; she’s comfortable playing just about anything. All these years later, the rest of us are in on the secret: Bobbie Lee Nelson is as much a part of the Willie Nelson sound as Willie his own self.