- 05 Mar 21
Ol' Red Eyes Is Back
There’s no knocking Willie Nelson’s classic 1978 standards album, Stardust - listen again to ‘Georgia On My Mind’ or ‘September Song’, if you don’t believe me - and it was classified as quintuple platinum, whatever that might actually mean, as long ago as 2002. My Way – the first time Willie decided to be Frank for an entire album back in 2018 – might not be quite as fondly remembered, but it did sport a great version of ‘It Was A Very Good Year’. It wasn’t written for Willie, but it bloody well should have been.
That’s Life, complete with its In The Wee Small Hours aping artwork, finds our hero – and he is one of the great heroes – paying tribute to Chairman Sinatra for a second time. Now, as every dog in the street knows, Willie Nelson has nothing left to prove, to anyone. He can do whatever the hell he pleases, and we should be glad of it. I can’t help being just a tad disappointed, however, as Nelson’s last record, the heart-breakingly great First Rose Of Spring, was a career highlight, in a career full of them.
Having got that off my chest, it should be pointed out Willie is still capable of causing a dull ache in that same area of the physique with the beautiful ‘Cottage For Sale’. Sinatra sang it on 1959’s No One Cares, a record that ol’ blue eyes apparently called “suicide songs”, and you can see why. Nelson also delivers another roundhouse kick to the ventricles with ‘In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning’, a song for pining lovers everywhere.
That's the thing, I've always preferred the melancholy Sinatra over the swinging one, and it's a similar story with Nelson. As much as I love 'On The Road Again' or 'Shotgun Willie', he can inhabit a song like 'Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground' or 'Always On My Mind' and take the legs out from under you. If he did a whole album of Sinatra's sitting-and-drinking songs, with that voice, we'd all be puddles on the floor. As much as it pains me to say it, That's Life is, for the most part, just a bit too jaunty, and even the duet with Diana Krall - a jazzer who certainly knows her way around a Sinatra record as her gorgeous 2017 version of 'Night And Day' attests - on 'I Won't Dance' sounds ever-so-slightly forced.
Still though, never mind what I think, this is Willie Nelson we’re talking about. We're lucky to be breathing the same air as him, and every note from that golden old throat is a blessing.