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CD REVIEW: WILLIE NELSON – Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin

| 8 April 2016 | Reply

CD REVIEW: WILLIE NELSON – Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin
Legacy Recordings/Sony
26 February, 2016
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
7 ½ /10

Willie Nelson sings Gershwin

Now in his ‘80s and still an outlaw country icon in himself, musically Willie Nelson has undeniably straddled just about every facet of modern American music, and here turns his considerable talents and ragged charm to the Gershwin songbook.

From the music hall ditties But Not For Me and Somebody Loves Me, through the sad but hopeful smoky jazz of Someone To Watch Over Me and a bouncy trip through Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off with Cyndi Lauper sharing vocal duties, it’s a reverential, laid-back and fun trip. Lauper’s ad-hoc aside “I love you, Willie” mid-song tells us much about the project: immaculately played and stylishly produced, there’s also an organic feel to the music, Team Nelson successfully parlaying the illusion that this is just a bunch of musos jamming some classic tunes.

Of course this is Willie Nelson recording for Sony with Buddy Cannon & Matt Rollings producing, so we know things were far more thought out than that, but it works on every level, so let’s enjoy it on face value.

Willie takes It Ain’t Necessarily So down a bluesy route, with some tasty and restrained guitar from Dean Parks and Paul Franklin, while Mickey Raphael’s harmonica provides a great foundation.

The studio players on the album are crack shots: they never overplay, giving each song it’s room to shine, and Jay Bellerose and David Pitch’s rhythm section are simply revelatory throughout.

I Got Rhythm is another bouncy track, but Sheryl Crow plays it too mellow and safe in a duet on Embraceable You. The two have performed and duetted together on multiple occasions, so a bit more of a wink and a flirty tone would have made this song the album standout rather than just a run-through. Missed opportunity.

With over 25,000 recorded versions of Summertime out there, Willie doesn’t even try to rival the likes of Janis Joplin, who produced arguably the strongest rock n’ roll version of the song. With a wailing harmonica, plaintiff piano and picked acoustic guitar he delivers the song in a Nina Simone style to great effect, ragged glory and all finishing the album on a high point.

Category: CD Reviews

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