A little-known gem from Willie Nelson’s third album, “Are You Sure” made a quiet comeback earlier this summer — 50 years after its original release — as a hidden track on Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material. Reborn as a duet between Musgraves and Nelson, the song’s new version was dreamt up during a backstage hang on Nelson’s tour bus in 2014. One year later, the two Texans have teamed up again for the song’s music video, which spins the story of two boozy, broken-hearted barflies who warn other against spending too much time at the saloon.
Musgraves co-directed the clip, which was filmed at the White Horse honky tonk in Austin. Bathed in pink light, slow-moving smoke and the shifting patterns of a disco ball, the video begins with Musgraves sitting alone at the bar, looking for the lover who’s left her for the cheap comforts of a happy-hour special. One minute later, the camera pans down the length of the bar to focus on Nelson. He, too, looks heartbroken and lonely. The two spend the rest of the clip chasing away their misery together, with help from Musgraves’ road band — looking as dapper as ever in their western swing get-ups — and a pair of highball glasses. Making a cameo appearance is Nelson’s beat-to-hell guitar, Trigger, whose solos help draw a line between Musgraves’ cover and the 1965 original.
A longtime fan of Shotgun Willie’s music, Musgraves began dreaming up her cover song in 2013, even taking to her Facebook account that spring to sing the tune’s praises. “Willie Nelson’s ‘Are You Sure’ — two minutes and 13 seconds of the realest shit you’ll ever hear,” she wrote on May 17th, adding, “Never gets old. Thank you, Willie.”
Now tucked into a hidden corner of Pageant Material, “Are You Sure” was meant to be a reward for those who made it all the way through the album. Filming a video for the tune effectively ruins the surprise, but it’s worth it to see Nelson and Musgraves sharing the stage, rolling two generations’ worth of Texas pride and country twang into four lovely minutes.