Jessi Colter on Teaming With Margo Price, Shooter Jennings for ‘Edge of Forever’: ‘They’re Keeping the History, Yet Moving Forward in a Good Way’ 

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Jessi Colter hadn’t planned on making a new album, but then Americana luminary Margo Price came to town.

After attending one of Price’s shows in Phoenix, Colter was talking to Price’s husband and fellow musician Jeremy Ivey, who mentioned how he wished Colter would make another album.

“I didn’t think much more about it at the time, but then Margo came back through Phoenix and was playing at Fort McDowell Casino, which is about 15 minutes down the road from where I lived,” Colter recalls via a phone interview with Billboard (Colter now splits her time between Phoenix and Wyoming). “I picked her up and she visited at my house.”

Artist-producer Shooter Jennings, son of Colter and her late husband, Country Music Hall of Famer Waylon Jennings, happened to be visiting Colter’s home, and the timing proved fortunate. “We talked about some songs I had written. Margo wanted to hear them, so I played a few I’d kind of tucked away,” Colter recalls.

Among those selections were two that ignited Price’s passion: “Angel in the Fire,” written as a tribute to Colter’s longtime friend Lisa Kristofferson (wife of singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson) and “Standing on the Edge of Forever.” Soon Colter found herself in a Nashville studio with Price, Jennings, Ivey and a close group of fellow musicians, with Colter playing piano, singing and recording live. Price produced and Jennings mixed the project. The result is Edge of Forever, out Friday (Oct. 27) on Appalachia Record Co., Colter’s first album in six years.

“Those were some great days that energized me, for sure,” Colter, 80, said. “Margo wanted my new songs, but we also threw in a few older ones. We pulled out what songs I had, things she really liked that I had done, and added new things.” Of Price and Jennings, she says, “They’re keeping the history and yet moving forward in a good way.”

Edge of Forever marks Colter’s first project since 2017’s The Psalms, produced by longtime Patti Smith collaborator Lenny Kaye. The soulful energy and confident air embedded in these recordings hark back to the music she crafted five decades ago when her song “I’m Not Lisa” became a crossover hit in 1975, topping Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and garnering Grammy and CMA Awards nominations. The First Lady of Outlaw Music followed with the top 5 country hit “What’s Happened to Blue Eyes.”

In 1976, Colter stood alongside her husband, Willie Nelson and Tompall Glaser on Wanted! The Outlaws, a compilation project that became country music’s first platinum-selling album and included the Grammy-nominated Colter-Jennings duet of the Elvis classic “Suspicious Minds.” Colter’s subsequent solo albums, including 1976’s Jessi and Diamond in the Rough, also reached the top 5 on Billboard‘s Country Albums chart.

Edge of Forever is a heady mix of new tunes, older compositions, revamped spirituals and a collaboration with her daughter, Jenni Eddy Jennings. Price sings with Colter on a trio of songs, “I Wanna Be With You,” “Maybe You Should” and “Lost Love Song,” a tune Colter became reacquainted with after discovering a demo recording in one of her late husband’s briefcases.

“He liked the song and he had played it for me,” she recalls, quoting lyrics from the song including “Treated me just like a prisoner, I never tried to escape/ ‘Cause one night with you made up for all my bad days.” “I love that song and kind of took it as mine.”

Long before her own musical success and her association with two music icons (she was married to Duane Eddy from 1961-1968 and then to Jennings from 1969 until his death in 2002), Colter was writing songs for other artists, including Hank Locklin and Dottie West. Beyond the originals, she contributed heavily to the writing for her new project, including rewriting lyrics to the classic spiritual “Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus,” to reflect her own journey.

“I’ve wanted to do that song for a long time,” she says, recalling an Apostolic church she attended in Nashville for many years. “I was the only white person there for about 10 years. It was wonderful because I was raised worshipping together, and that’s been my experience. There were no racial barriers.”

The Psalms drew its lyrics from the Old Testament’s Book of Psalms, and that same practice spills over into one of the songs on Edge of Forever, “Secret Place,” which takes lyrics from Psalm 91 and features writing and a vocal assist from Colter’s daughter, Jenni Eddy Jennings. The pair created the song prior to Waylon’s death. “When he heard that, he said, ‘You’ve got to cut that.’ It was something we always had in mind,” Colter says. “Margo loved it, and Jennifer’s voice is so melodious.”

Given the caliber of the trio of artists working on the album, one can’t help but compare Edge of Forever with a recent project helmed by Jennings and another Americana stalwart for a country music icon: Tanya Tucker’s 2019 project While I’m Livin’, co-produced by Jennings and Brandi Carlile, which went on to win two Grammys.

Whether Edge of Forever ultimately garners awards recognition remains to be seen, but it is a testament to a new generation of artists showing respect for and craving the music of artists such as Tucker and Colter — as is another project Colter has been working on for the past few years. Shooter Jennings, Price and Charley Crockett are among the younger artists featured in They Called Us Outlaws: Cosmic Cowboys, Honky Tonk Heroes and the Rise of the Renegade Troubadours, a six-part documentary series executive produced by Colter, which also features Kris Kristofferson and Steve Earle. Colter says the project is slated to be released in 2024.

“It began with the difference between Austin and Nashville,” Colter recalls of the 1970s Outlaws era. “Nashville was such ‘old-guard’ recording, and Austin had been exposed to rock. The country music people were conservative — doctors, lawyers — but Austin was ready for something more progressive, which is what Waylon and Willie were doing. The Outlaw thing itself was a brand and Waylon didn’t ever like that, really — but it was something that marketed well, so the brand has been used ever since.

“The documentary is going to be a revelation to a lot of people,” she continues. “This is more underground, what was really going on. It’s exciting to see a lot of young people looking back to the past and getting turned on to that.”

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