Strings is excellent at giving a nod to country music and bluegrass greats during his sets. While that often looks like a Doc Watson cover, Strings switched it up during his show in Sacramento, California. Playing one of The Redheaded Stranger’s favorites, “Pancho and Lefty,” Billy Strings sat on center stage solo with an acoustic and a mic, giving his band a break.
Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard released their iconic rendition of “Pancho and Lefty” as the title track to their collaborative album Pancho & Lefty in 1983. It became a classic country hit and reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles chart that year. Of course, it was originally a song written and recorded by Townes Van Zandt for his 1972 album The Late Great Townes Van Zandt, and then later by Emmylou Harris in 1976.
It appears as if Strings had no game plan for this part of his set until a fan yells out for him to cover the song.
“I might forget a verse, and then I’d feel really bad…you better help me if I forget the verse, so we’ll see. This guy down here said he’s gonna help me if I forget the verse, so it’s all on him.
If I f**k up, mister, it’s all your fault.”
Oftentimes, and I think I speak for the masses on this, we are so mesmerized by Strings’ guitar-picking talent that we often overlook his vocal talent. This cover shines a light on that, and there is no better cover to do that than this beloved country tune.
After the song concludes, Strings shares that he is sitting on the stage without his ear system, just listening to the crowd and having fun with the crowd.
“Any other songs…? This is interesting. I pulled my headphones out, and I’m just listening the same way you are. It’s kind of better almost because I’m hearing what you’re hearing.”
A fan from the crowd then requests Jerry Reed’s “The Preacher and the Bear.” Another classic. I loved what this crowd was on from these two requests. Again, Strings absolutely knocks the cover out of the park, pickin’ and singing his heart out.
You never know what you’ll get at a Billy Strings show; it could be him rocking out with trippy visuals (or in a muscle suit), or you could get a listening room-style portion of a show.