Monday, January 3, 2011


One album that I felt was really overlooked and underrated in 2010 was the latest from Willie Nelson, Country Music. Produced by T-Bone ("Him Again") Burnett, The name of the album may seem odd or obvious, as Willie is kind of synonymous with country music, but he often makes excursions into other genres: in 2009, he released an album of standards (American Classic) and Texas swing (Willie & The Wheel, a collaboration with Asleep At The Wheel, which I loved). So, in one regard, it's a return to classic country music.

But the title can also double as a reminder to Nashville that this is country music. The Nashville establishment respects Willie, but don't ever support his new music (the same is true for Merle, it was true for Cash and Waylon during the last few decades of their lifetimes).

Actually, "country music" may be a bit deceptive, unless you consider the roots of the genre, which were tied to gospel music. The album features some old gospel numbers like "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" (coincidentally, former Burnett client Robert Plant covered it on his latest album, Band Of Joy), "Satisfied Mind," and Hank Williams' "House Of Gold."  Other country classics include Merle Travis' "Dark As A Dungeon," Doc Watson's "Freight Train Boogie" and "You Done Me Wrong," written by Ray Price and George Jones. The album isn't some gimmicky marketing project though, it is a collection of well-chosen songs that Willie takes and makes his own.

Willie Nelson is so prolific it can be hard to keep up with all of the albums that he puts out (I am a huge fan of his more recent music).  This album isn't a stretch into different waters for him, as (you could argue) his forays into standards, blues, children's music or  reggae have been.  (Let's forget that reggae album ever happened, actually.) This is a master artist picking songs that are classics but not overplayed, and he actually brings new life to all of them.  Highly recommended.

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