Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Album Review: Willie Nelson - Bluegrass

Willie Nelson 
*** out of *****

The second album released in 2023 from the 90 year old Willie Nelson is a reinterpretation of his back catalog in the vein of the title, Bluegrass. While not vital, it contains some sweet twists on classics, a few surprises, and overall is an easy rolling breeze of a listen with twang and soulfulness.   

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Bluegrass is that this is the first album Nelson has not played his trademark guitar Trigger on since he bought the acoustic warhorse. Nelson sticks to singing (and his 90 year old voice sounds fine), while the instrumentation was captured mostly live in Nashville by a crack band. They include, Barry Bales – upright bass, Wyatt Beard – background vocals, Ron Block – banjo, Buddy Cannon – background vocals, Melonie Cannon – background vocals, Aubrey Haynie – fiddle, Rob Ickes – dobro, Josh Martin – acoustic guitar, Mickey Raphael – harmonica, Seth Taylor – mandolin, Bobby Terry – acoustic guitar, gut string guitar, Dan Tyminski – mandolin. 

Opening with the smooth "No Love Around" the tone is set, twangy playing mixed with restrained singing of some of Nelson's classics. The swaying "Somebody Pick Up My Pieces" features nice picking around Nelsons great lyrics and softer vocals while "Good Hearted Woman" is a relaxed hoedown that proves to be an album highlight.  

Less successful is the slow, weepy fiddle and guitars of "Sad Songs and Waltzes" while "Bloody Mary Morning" is upbeat and pretty much the same, just with a touch more twang. It must also be said that this just may be the cheesiest album cover of Nelson's long career. The band does get bluesy with their grass for both "You Left Me a Long, Long Time Ago" which highlights the backup signing in almost duet fashion and "Home Motel" which features the most emotional singing from Nelson on this release. 

The pace picks up towards the end of the album as the players cut loose for the fast "Still Is Still Moving to Me" and the excellently quick take on "Slow Down Old World". The group picks a good one for the classic "On The Road Again" while "Man With The Blues" wraps things up on this pleasant jaunt (with a twist) through some of Nelson's tunes as the artist just keeps putting out good to great albums when most other artists are either dead or gone, cowboy hat's off to him.  
Support the legend, buy the album and peep some video below:

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