Wednesday, November 01, 2006

CD Review - Willie Nelson - Songbird

Here's the review for the exciting collaboration between americana 'it' boy, Ryan Adams and country legend, Willie Nelson. Mostly covers, but well worth a listen.

PR: Richard Wooton Publicity

Reviewer: Andrew Williamson

It was only a matter of time before this happened. Willie Nelson (73) and Ryan Adams (32) both release more records a year than is sensible, and they both love covers, so why not collaborate? Strictly, this is a Willie Nelson record with Adams as producer, but in reality it's much more of a joint effort. Ryan lends Willie his band, The Cardinals, and takes him to New York to cut a gem.

In much the same way Rick Ruben boosted Johnny Cash's later career with the "American Recordings" series, Ryan Adams hands Nelson a diverse selection of covers to showcase his voice. From Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" to Gram Parsons' "$1000 Wedding" Willie Nelson has never sounded fresher or better.

In addition to the covers, Nelson and Adams each wrote a new song specifically for Songbird. Nelson's acoustic "Back to Earth" could easily have appeared on one of his albums, while Adams contributed the magnificent country blues gem, "Blue Hotel".

The risk of a covers album is that they will sound tired compared to the originals, but guided by Adams' sensibilities Nelson stamps his authority all over the tracks. The Cardinals are a great band, providing a rocky edge and spurring Willie on all the time.

There can not be justification for yet another version of "Hallelujah", but The Grateful Dead’s "Stella Blue" and an unnerving take on "Amazing Grace" cap an outstanding collaboration. 73 or not, Willie Nelson is back on top of his game.

Rating: 4/5
For Fans of: Ryan Adams, Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons
Download: Rainy Day Blues, Blue Hotel

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