Ahead of the 2019 Grammy Awards, country icon Willie Nelson was honored by the Recording Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing on Wednesday night (Feb. 6), for his legacy in the studio. The occasion marked the latest in a series of tribute concerts, showcases, exhibits and other gestures of appreciation that the genre has organized for Nelson, whose decades-long career has made a major impact on country music as a whole.

Like any great artist, Nelson has gone through creative evolutions over the course of his career. So, what's the definitive era of Willie Nelson? Well ... it's a tough choice.

"[My favorite era of his music] is the very beginning," Bobby Bare explained to The Boot in advance of an all-star tribute concert for Nelson that took place in Nashville earlier in 2019.

"I met Willie on a demo session and fell in love immediately with everything he was doing," Bare recalls, going on to say that it was Nelson's genuine spirit and authenticity that first captured his admiration.

"He was very spiritual. It was just something that he loved," Bare continues. "The whole world has done the same thing -- they've fallen in love with Willie Nelson. And I can understand that completely. I did the same thing."

Nelson's frequent tourmate Derek Trucks has another opinion: "Those early-'70s records he put out! Phases and StagesYesterday's Wine and Red Headed Stranger -- those were so good," Trucks gushes.

Trucks' bandmate and wife, Susan Tedeschi, interjects with another perspective, however: "I love Yesterday's Wine, but then I have this old, weird compilation of him, but he's all clean-cut and young, and he sings almost with the strings, that kind of stuff. It's really amazing and different," she describes.

"I love the '70s. I love the '80s. I love 'em all," Tedeschi adds. "I even love when he sings reggae or sings the blues."

Performer Lyle Lovett agrees that it's too difficult to pick just one era of Nelson's music. "I like everything Willie's done," he admits, explaining that that's because no matter how he's evolved musically, Nelson has always put his heart and musical ingenuity fully into his craft.

"It's because of the way he is as a person as much as it is the way he is as a musician," Lovett continues. "As a musician, his guitar-playing is unique and incredible. And his phrasing -- nobody phrases like Willie. It's just interesting every time you hear him."

Willie Nelson Through the Years

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