The time I drove across the Cascade Mountains and the ‘Red Headed Stranger’ rode shotgun

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I recently made a long, solo drive from Seattle over the Cascade Mountains, and I found a great road trip companion: Willie Nelson’s “Red Headed Stranger.”

In Eastern Washington and Oregon on my way to the Columbia River Gorge the haunting songs with sparse arrangements were the perfect soundtrack for the stark landscape out my windshield – rolling alfalfa fields and parched, barren hills dotted with spindly wind turbines.

In Nelson’s long murder ballad, a wayward preacher wanders the Old West with a broken heart and blood in his eyes.

It was the time of the preacher
When the story began
With the choice of a lady
and the love of a man

How he loved her so dearly
he went out of his mind
When she left him for someone
she’d left behind

Lyle Lovett was asked once if someone was in a record store looking for just one Lyle Lovett album, which one would he recommend.

“Willie Nelson,” Lovett said. “‘Red Headed Stranger.’”

No argument here.