12 Songs, 47 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

At this point, Willie Nelson is an American institution. His long, admirable career is chockfull of historic, musical moments which have proven that his signature sound — that delicate, wavering vibrato — can be adapted to just about any genre. For Songbird, Nelson teams up with alt.country poster boy Ryan Adams and his backing group, the Cardinals, for a collection of covers, remakes and two originals — one penned by Nelson (“Back to Earth”), one by Adams (“Blue Hotel”) — written specifically for the project. Nelson’s natural, laconic delivery is like a lazy river that reaches its destination in its own sweet time, and with the able backing support of Jon Graboff’s pedal steel guitar, he's immediately right at home. He’s a natural fit for Leonard Cohen’s universal hymn, “Hallelujah,” and Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter’s “Stella Blue” has Nelson’s spiritual vibe written all over it. The challenges are even more interesting. Gram Parsons’ “$1,000 Wedding” is a sad-eyed mini-epic that Nelson sings with all the sorrow and irony intact, while Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird” reveals its previously obscured country soul.

EDITORS’ NOTES

At this point, Willie Nelson is an American institution. His long, admirable career is chockfull of historic, musical moments which have proven that his signature sound — that delicate, wavering vibrato — can be adapted to just about any genre. For Songbird, Nelson teams up with alt.country poster boy Ryan Adams and his backing group, the Cardinals, for a collection of covers, remakes and two originals — one penned by Nelson (“Back to Earth”), one by Adams (“Blue Hotel”) — written specifically for the project. Nelson’s natural, laconic delivery is like a lazy river that reaches its destination in its own sweet time, and with the able backing support of Jon Graboff’s pedal steel guitar, he's immediately right at home. He’s a natural fit for Leonard Cohen’s universal hymn, “Hallelujah,” and Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter’s “Stella Blue” has Nelson’s spiritual vibe written all over it. The challenges are even more interesting. Gram Parsons’ “$1,000 Wedding” is a sad-eyed mini-epic that Nelson sings with all the sorrow and irony intact, while Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird” reveals its previously obscured country soul.

TITLE TIME
5:31
2:39
3:30
2:59
6:22
4:52
3:04
4:18
3:02
3:17
4:49
3:20

About Willie Nelson

Even before he became the Red Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson was already a Nashville songwriting legend, providing Patsy Cline with her 1961 signature tune, “Crazy.” But as a fledgling performer in his own right, the clean-cut honky-tonker’s humble approach and conversational croon was increasingly at odds with mainstream country music’s tilt toward variety-show glitz. Upon joining the post-hippie roots-music radicals taking over the Austin scene (and swearing off barbers forevermore), the Texas-born Nelson became an icon of the ’70s outlaw-country movement, favoring a stripped-down style that could both evoke desert-highway vistas (“On the Road Again”) and initiate the most intimate of conversations (“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”). But Nelson’s brand of down-home simplicity shouldn’t be confused with dogmatic purism (he’s also no stranger to adult-contemporary crossovers, like his duet with Julio Iglesias, “To All the Girls I've Loved Before”). Rather, he’s always searching for the most direct route to the soul of a song, whether he’s elevating the country standard “Always on My Mind” to the realm of modern hymn, or bringing a wistful, lived-in wisdom to Great American Songbook perennials like “Georgia on My Mind.” In the 21st century, Nelson’s outlaw ethos has continued to manifest itself in all sorts of surprising ways: He’s become America’s most visible pro-marijuana activist and Snoop Dogg’s unlikeliest duet partner.

HOMETOWN
Abbott, TX
GENRE
Country
BORN
April 29, 1933

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