Willie Nelson's annual Outlaw Music Festival, which is now in its third year, gets more impressive all the time.
Last year, the octogenarian sui generis singer and songwriter scored a coup by luring rarely touring Northern Irish soul legend Van Morrison to play a single show with him, in Hershey, Pa., of all places.
This year, Willie's got Van back, and he's doing a total of four shows including three within reasonable driving distance from Philadelphia: Hersheypark Stadium on Sept. 8, the Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton on Sept. 14 and close by at the BB&T Pavilion on Sept. 15.
Those three shows also include Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lukas Nelson + Promise of the Real (who are led by Willie's son) and Particle Kid. Greensky Bluegrass is on the bill in Camden and get this, Outlaw Country fans, Sturgill Simpson plays the Hershey date. (Morrison is also doing the tour date on Sept. 7 in Burgettstown, outside of Pittsburgh.)
The 72-year-old Morrison has never stopped touring, but he keeps a light schedule and rarely plays in the Philadelphia area. He played the Tower Theater (and also the Borgata in Atlantic City) in 2008.
This visit is well timed, because Morrison is having a moment. Last fall, he released Roll With The Punches and Versatile, his 37th and 38th studio albums, and You're Driving Me Crazy, a collaboration with Philadelphia jazz organ player Joey DeFrancsesco, is due out April 27.
The Van the Man album that is considered by many to be his greatest is the subject of Ryan T. Walsh's new book Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, which I'm currently reading and is very good so far.