Tuesday, 2 September 2008

"Songbird" by WILLIE NELSON featuring RYAN ADAMS and THE CARDINALS.



Other reviewers have commented on the lack of writing credits on this album - and I agree. It's astonishing that there isn't any - nor even a booklet supplied. The CD is housed in a card gatefold digipak and the inner flap lists production credits (Ryan Adams) and recording venues, a list of the band who played on it (The Cardinals) and some other minor details on Addtional participants - and that's it! No lyrics! No idea of who wrote what or why!

In order to straighten this out, the following should help:

1. Rainy Day Blues (Willie Nelson)
2. Songbird (Fleetwood Mac cover, originally on Rumours (1977) but also closely associated with Eva Cassidy)
3. Blue Hotel (written by Ryan Adams, a STUNNER, played live with the Cardinals on the recent BBC Sessions)
4. Back To Earth (Willie Nelson)
5. Stella Blue (a Grateful Dead cover)
6. Hallelujah (a Leonard Cohen cover, also closely associated with Jeff Buckley who covered it too)
7. $1000 Wedding (a Gram Parsons cover)
8. We Don't Run (Willie Nelson)
9. Yours Love (Willie Nelson)
10. Sad Songs & Waltzes (Willie Nelson)
11. Amazing Grace (the Traditional Gospel song covered a la "House Of The Rising Sun" style)

I must admit that I initially bought this solely for the "Blue Hotel" track by Ryan Adams which was played live by Adams with The Cardinals on the recent BBC Sessions. It brought a rousing cheer from the audience - most of whom knew they hadn't heard it before - and loved it. It's similar to "Everything I Do" by Whiskeytown - and has a melody and lyrics that hook you instantly and is sloppy like Faces love songs are - for all the right reasons! A classic in the making!

Special praise should also go out to Adams for his 'live in the studio' production, which adds life and vitality to all the songs and makes them feel so 'of the moment'. And praise too to The Cardinals as the house band - who play an absolute storm on all tracks and like Rick Ruben with Johhny Cash & Tom Petty's Heartbreakers - seem to be kindred spirits that produce magic when they get it right. But not all of it is right.

Nelson's cover of 'Songbird" is excellent, tender yet gruff in that way of his. But his cover of "Stella Blue" just feels too loose - shambolic almost. And his new Englishified Animals version of "Amazing Grace" has been called genius and travesty in equal measure. I'd say it's a little of both - and for me - a collector of the song - it's an aquired taste. I once did a CD-R of 18 different versions of "Amazing Grace". It takes a lot to butcher this impossibly beautiful song and I'm afraid our Willie gets too damn close!

In truth, I did find some of his own songs disappointing, where Nelson just seems to be coasting. The whole project seems hurried too - or incomplete somehow. To sum up, it's a good album - very good indeed in certain places, but it's just that you can't help but feel, that with a little more thought and better song choices - it could have been a truly great one. But then I play "Blue Hotel" again...and I'm reaching for the adjectives and looking forward to the next installment! Definitely worth your investigation.

I'm off to explore more of Nelson's recent work.

No comments:

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc