Album Review: Willie Nelson – Country Music3 min read
Always at the forefront of country music Willie Nelson is one of the most successful and most recorded country musicians in history. An icon in his own right in his time he has recorded more than 70 studio albums. Not many musicians can hold a torch to this guy. At 77 years of age Willie Nelson is still churning records out and touring the globe 200+ days of the year with his trusty guitar ‘Trigger’ and shows no signs of slowing down.
Over the years Nelson has dabbled in a range of styles including jazz and even reggae but with his latest album, the aptly titled Country Music, we are taken back to the days of old – to Nelsons roots.
Over the course of 15 tracks Nelson gives us his renditions on classic country standards. This particular record contains songs Nelson grew up with and they are his take on music that inspired him right back in the beginning with the help of legendary producer T-Bone Burnett and Americas finest Bluegrass musicians.
Burnett’s work is extensive and his list of collaborations reads like an A-Z of American folk royalty – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Tony Bennett, K D Lang to name a few. He has also won a number of Grammy’s for the highly successful folk soundtrack O Brother Where Art Thou?
With someone like this playing architect on your record it would seem pretty hard to go wrong. Or so you would think!
The biggest downfall to this album is that Nelson can at many times sound very monotonous. Maybe its the fact that the tone very rarely changes throughout the record, or maybe its the gloomy lyrics that feel recycled from so many country songs over the years or maybe its both. The noticeable feature on the album is that Willie often sounds like he is going through the motions and there is no heart behind many of the numbers. Nelsons latest attempt doesn’t seem to add any freshness to these classic country standards to make the record serve any sort of purpose.
Country Music is an album that can be quite hard to take in all in one go. For the most part it comes across as sounding quite rushed and generic. The balance of up-tempo versus ballad is also disappointing with the latter being far too overpowering.
Nobody’s Fault But Mine is as mellow as the they come. With an occasional stint of fiddle to bid any form of uplifting it fails in its attempt to be a complimenting addition to the record and would have been better left off altogether instead of allowing the collection to end on a low point.
Though this collection is weighed down by ballads there are some great tracks among them that are worth a listen.
Dark As A Dungeon is a gorgeous tune with Willie showing the most enthusiasm vocally on this track than on any other on the record.
Freight Train Boogie is honky tonk bluegrass at its best. Its a musically ambitious number that utilizes all sounds country with a collision of banjo, mandolin, bass and harmonica and is the highlight in the collection
Drinking Champagne is a little more of a foreign number along with House of Gold adding a gentle Spanish feel to both.
Country music is quite an acquired taste outside of the US and a record of old time country standards is really aimed at fans of the genre particularly those with an appreciation for the classics as like the songs found on this record and therefore the album seems destined to be pigeon-holed into that specific market. Its literally what it says it is on the can – Country Music – and although there are a handful of decent tracks here it doesn’t generate a craving for more.
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