Willie Nelson has been a prolific singer and recording artist since the 1970s, but the songwriter who penned hits for Ray Price, Patsy Cline, Billy Walker, and Johnny Cash, among others, hasn't issued an album of predominantly original material since 1996. Band of Brothers ends the drought. Its 14 selections include nine new songs by Nelson (with producer Buddy Cannon) and a handful of fine covers. Opener "Bring It On" is a honky tonk waltz that offers wisdom by someone who has lived through plenty as he looks eternity squarely in the eye. He is in excellent voice as Mickey Raphael's harmonica moans to underscore his lyric. Nelson delivers his first guitar solo on Trigger (his nylon-stringed instrument). His playing, with its unique phrasing, has always been underrated and here it evokes the blues. His love songs have always been highlights in his catalog. "I Thought I Left You" is in 4/4, with a slow processional pace adorned with slippery steel and piano. The lost romance portrayed in the waltz "Send Me a Picture" is another clear standout; a sighing pedal steel and Raphael's mid-register wail echo every sung line.
This is the album that Hendrix "owed" Capitol for releasing him over to Reprise Records and significantly, it isn't a studio effort, as his Reprise albums have been. Which is not to imply that it is any better than those Experience albums. The context of the album is vital — Band of Gypsys was one of Hendrix' 1969 amalgamations consisting of Buddy Miles on drums and Billy Cox on bass, among others. They hadn't been together very long when this session was recorded live at the Fillmore East, New Year's Eve 1969/70, and the music shows it.