Nestled among the country shuffles and western swing numbers on Willie Nelson’s For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price, gorgeous ballad “It Always Will Be” is as romantic a declaration of love as has ever been written.
The song is one of two Nelson-penned tracks – along with “Night Life” – that appear on Nelson’s salute to his late dear friend and former boss, out September 16th..
Love eludes Nelson in the song until he finds “his favorite girl / because when I look into her eyes I see all the love there is in all the world.” Even though it breaks his heart to be apart, conjuring up his loved one’s image quells the loneliness. The production swells as strings surround Nelson’s plaintive delivery.
Nelson briefly played bass in Price’s touring band the Cherokee Cowboys, starting in the early 1960s. Though Nelson’s tenure in the Cherokee Cowboys was brief, he and Price remained lifelong friends, last recording together for 2007’s Last of the Breed, a double album the duo made with Merle Haggard.
“People ask me who my favorite singers are and I say, well, there’s Ray Price and Frank Sinatra. I don’t think there was ever any doubt that I’d do a Ray Price tribute album,” says Nelson in a video about recording the album. “He brought it all together from Hank Williams to Bob Wills – the old shuffle to western swing to the strings.”
Nelson recorded For the Good Times at Nashville’s Ocean Way, the same studio where Price recorded his last album, Beauty Is. . . from 2014. That collection came out a few months after his December 2013 death and included Price’s version of “It Always Will Be.”
Price loved the song, according to producer Fred Foster, who helmed Beauty Is. . . as well as Nelson’s tribute album. “Ray said to me, I don’t care what we do, I want to do ‘It Always Will Be,’ and I know it will please Ray that Willie is doing it in his tribute to him,” Foster says in the making of video. “As much as Willie admired Ray, Ray equally admired Willie. Ray would be so proud.” Hear Nelson’s “It Always Will Be” above.
Nelson recorded the track previously on his 2004 album titled It Always Will Be, as well as on his 2003 album with Austin singer/songwriter Kimmie Rhodes, Picture in a Frame.