Willie Nelson – SUMMERTIME: WILLIE NELSON SINGS GERSHWIN
4 May 2016 CD Reviews
Come on, Willie, let’s really call the whole thing off
Ah, they’re at it again. Another project to keep Willie busy at an age when he should perhaps have his feet up. This one is less unlikely than his reggae album, but is perhaps even less satisfying (even though it won’t have you waking up in the middle of the night screaming).
On the face of it the jazzy, crooning songs of George and Ira Gershwin should be a perfect fit for Willie, given that his own classics such as Night Life might be seen to inhabit the same world (and Nelson recently received the Gershwin Prize for his writing). Yet the playful showtime love songs end up sounding contrived and dated alongside the altogether more real Nelson pantheon.
Unlike the reggae album with its just-what-you’d-expect dub-friendly backing, here he’s thankfully not subjected to a traditional orchestra, and the album is at its best when the accompaniment is at its simplest, relying on Willie’s Spanish guitar and the wailing harp of Mickey Raphael.
It Ain’t Necessarily So works neatly, and Summertime really does fit Willie’s modus operandi, slow and half-spoken, but he sounds like he’s closed his eyes and is waiting for it all to be over on Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off, a twee duet with, god preserve us, Cyndi Lauper.