11 Songs, 36 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Willie tackled Gershwin as early as 1978’s Stardust, but here he dedicates an entire album to Ira and George’s gems. Bluesier tunes like the slinky “It Ain’t Necessarily So” lend themselves naturally to Nelson’s spare, earthy treatment, but he’s just as adept at interpreting romantic ballads such as “Embraceable You,” where he’s joined by Sheryl Crow. The key is Nelson’s knack for distinctly jazzy, behind-the-beat phrasing; he has employed it throughout his career, but on standards like these it’s an especially effective element of his style.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Willie tackled Gershwin as early as 1978’s Stardust, but here he dedicates an entire album to Ira and George’s gems. Bluesier tunes like the slinky “It Ain’t Necessarily So” lend themselves naturally to Nelson’s spare, earthy treatment, but he’s just as adept at interpreting romantic ballads such as “Embraceable You,” where he’s joined by Sheryl Crow. The key is Nelson’s knack for distinctly jazzy, behind-the-beat phrasing; he has employed it throughout his career, but on standards like these it’s an especially effective element of his style.

TITLE TIME

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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