Willie Nelson – [Album]

Thursday, 03 June 2010

Over the last few years, Willie Nelson has seemed to take great joy in playing against both his image and standing as one of the most venerable and celebrated living names in Country music. To name just a couple of examples, Nelson passed the dutchie and played out some Jamaican reggae rhythms for an album's length of time on Countryman in 2005, he scrubbed up and got uncharacteristically tidy in 2009 for a set of uptown contemporary covers on American Music and paid glowing tribute to Cindy Walker for a whole album in 2006 – he's simply been all over the musical map.

With so much stylistic traveling done of late, there was no small number of fans that had started to wonder when Nelson might find his way home to some fine country climes and those fans will be thrilled by the appropriately entitled album, Country Music; the record is a return to Country with no frills and no gimmicks per se, just good, time-honored songs with a mind to represent them with a refreshed coat of paint.

While it's true that Nelson hasn't picked up a pen again yet to write a full album of material again (only the album's opener, “Man With The Blues,” is credited to the singer), the return to form is most definitely welcome because Nelson and producer T Bone Burnett don't just go halfway, the go right back to the music's roots and traditional structures; with no drums, the duo layers on banjos, guitars, harmonicas, fiddle, pedal steel and mandolin to do Country Music Opry style – as in, before drums were allowed on stage at The Grand Ole Opry. Each song along the way, listeners can tell that Willie Nelson remembers this game and the rules that govern it, and there's a spark of nostalgia in it for the singer that he's really reveling in here. As stoic as his voice appears in songs like “Dark As A Dungeon,” “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” “You Done Me Wrong” and “Nobody's Fault But Mine,”there's also a wink and a smile implied as the singer's gut-string acoustic guitar plucks out the key parts and Burnett conducts and arranges a very Southern Gothic spell that's intriguing in its' darkness, That dimmer view has the added benefit of marvelously complimenting the more straightforward Country strains of songs like “My Baby's Gone” and “Freight Train Boogie,” thereby elevating the stature of both sides dramatically; because there is that shift between traditional and contemporary productions, listeners are engaged to see not just what comes next, but what face each successive song will wear. While there are no fireworks or para-spectacular, dramatic moments on Country Music (this is still a Willie Nelson album, after all, and drama's not his forte), there are some surprises and truly mind-blowing turns here that will have fans whispering, “Welcome home Willie, what took you so long?”



Country Music
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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