WEDNESDAY

Now that Ol’ Blue Eyes has retired to the clouds, itþ s time we consider nominating this redheaded stranger from Texas for Chairman of the Board. (Never mind that Tony Bennettþ s next in line—the swingers have had their turn.) Granted, Willie (pictured) doesnþ t offer much in the way of swagger—devoted pot smokers are never as magnetic as their whiskey-swilling peers—and my uncle Orvþ s got more style. But outside of jazz, youþ d be hard pressed to find a singer with a gift for understatement as profound as Nelsonþ s, and while his life workþ s been only sporadically brilliant, heþ s rarely been so wise that heþ s seemed detached from country musicþ s emotional core; Patsy Clineþ s signature þ Crazyþ was a Nelson original, after all, and to this day, his reading of þ Night Lifeþ moves me to swear off the hard stuff for days on end. Opener Steve Earleþ s still too young to claim any standards, but as far as classics go, the one-time prodigyþ s got a couple of CDs full—and thatþ s not including the stuff he recorded before getting thrown in jail. For proof that falling on hard times isnþ t necessarily the life sentence for a country music legend, get to the park early and plan to make a night of it. At 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 22, at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center, 1624 Trap Road., Vienna. $16-26. (703) 255-1860. Earle & the Dukes also perform at 8 p.m. Monday, July 20, at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St., Annapolis. (410) 263-5544. (Brett Anderson)