Monday, February 7, 2011

Grammy Nominee Number 2 -- Willie Nelson, Country Music

Although this next post has been much delayed, it's better to be late than never (at least that's my policy). This time around, we look at another strong contender for the Best Americana Album at the upcoming Grammy Awards on February 13, 2011.

Is there another producer out there who is hotter right now than T Bone Burnett? I ask that rhetorically, because I think you would be hard pressed to find one. For years now, Burnett has had this uncanny ability to bring a new and honest sound to many artists who seek to get "in tune" with the music and craft. When you take a look at Burnett's most recent projects, it's a truly remarkable list: from soundtracks for Crazy Heart and Walk the Line, to John Mellancamp and the classic Raising Sand with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, the man is on an unbelievable streak. His most recent project with Gregg Allman is another piece of art from one of southern rocks true legends. This album will most definitely be reviewed in the near future. But for now, the album we're going to talk about is an album produced by T Bone Burnett and recorded by an American original, a true influential legend, Willie Nelson.

Released in 2010 on Rounder Records, "Country Music" may throw off some of today's more mainstream country music fans. This album features tracks from the very artists that blazed the country music trail, indeed, created the very industry that the biggest stars of today enjoy. You won't find any screaming electric guitar rifts on this record. Just honest to goodness music the way it was intended to be created -- soft, acoustic and understated. Willie's voice is in fine form on this record. His vocals complement the instrumentation very effectively on this record. He turns "House of Gold", a Hank Williams Sr. composition, in to his own. Merle Travis' "Dark as a Dungeon" receives proper treatment from Willie as he pays homage to the generations of hard working coal miners. Willie covers a song written by two of his longtime friends, Ray Price and George Jones, "You Done Me Wrong." If Willie was trying to honor Ray and George with his performance of this song, mission accomplished. Willie includes one of his own tunes on here as well with "Man With the Blues", and covers a song by another long time friend Bill Mack with "Drinking Champagne." These are all standout tracks on a truly excellent album.

For an artist who is well into his seventies, Willie's vocals are as strong as they've ever been. This album is a fantastic piece of country music/Americana history, from one of the legends and trailblazers who helped create the Americana genre. With stellar production from T Bone Burnett, fantastic musicianship from Buddy Miller and Mickey Raphael among others, and stellar backing vocals from Jim Lauderdale, Willie Nelson has assured the preservation of these country classics for generations to come. This is a well deserved Grammy nomination. If you get the chance, pick up this album at your local record store or right here at Amazon.

Next up for review on Wednesday, Robert Plant and the Band of Joy.

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