10 Songs, 39 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Without a Song is essentially a sequel to Stardust, the 1978 album of standards that brought Willie Nelson to a whole new plateau of fame. For the occasion Nelson reunited with Booker T. Jones, who produced, arranged and played keyboards on Stardust. While this effort doesn’t have the gilded inspiration of its predecessor, there are several sterling interpretations here. Most prominent is the title song, a reading of a 1930 Paul Whiteman tune that became the album’s lone hit. The performance is emblematic of the Jones-Nelson collaboration. They took a stuffy song that contemporary listeners viewed as crusty and corny and made it into something deeply languorous, sensual and seductive. As was the case with Stardust, the instrumentation here is based on the warm glow of Jones’ keyboard; the performances always grow out of that gentle sound. Over the course of the album, the pacing and atmosphere takes on an aching, if not narcotic, tone, and by the time Julio Iglesias emerges to sing “If Times Goes By” the listener feels he's entered a surreal but seductive dream state.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Without a Song is essentially a sequel to Stardust, the 1978 album of standards that brought Willie Nelson to a whole new plateau of fame. For the occasion Nelson reunited with Booker T. Jones, who produced, arranged and played keyboards on Stardust. While this effort doesn’t have the gilded inspiration of its predecessor, there are several sterling interpretations here. Most prominent is the title song, a reading of a 1930 Paul Whiteman tune that became the album’s lone hit. The performance is emblematic of the Jones-Nelson collaboration. They took a stuffy song that contemporary listeners viewed as crusty and corny and made it into something deeply languorous, sensual and seductive. As was the case with Stardust, the instrumentation here is based on the warm glow of Jones’ keyboard; the performances always grow out of that gentle sound. Over the course of the album, the pacing and atmosphere takes on an aching, if not narcotic, tone, and by the time Julio Iglesias emerges to sing “If Times Goes By” the listener feels he's entered a surreal but seductive dream state.

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

Songs

Albums

Videos

Listeners Also Played