Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin
There’s dozens of Willie Nelson Sings and/or Willie Nelson Plays albums – a kids album, an instrumental album, reggae, jazz, standards, particular eras, composers…he is one of the most adept and brilliant song stylists of the post-war years. And yet some of his albums – particularly across the early 00s – felt rushed. This one, material he’s covered before in some cases, shines. Because it sounds like Willie means it, sounds like he’s having fun and the band is wonderful. His faithful harmonica right-hand-man, Mickey Raphael gets plenty of opportunities to dazzle (It Ain’t Necessarily So), Cyndi Lauper is delightful duetting on Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off and for all the obvious selections, tunes that have to be performed when talking Gershwin (Someone To Watch Over Me, Summertime, They Can’t Take That Away From Me) Nelson finds room to showcase the real breadth of Gershwin (But Not For Me, They All Laughed, Embraceable You).
The way he presents a tune, the honesty, the phrasing – and of course some special little lines from ol’ Trigger – well, no one else can do it. And when he’s on form, as is the case here, there’s really no one better. It’s a relaxed vibe, and a brief run time; it’s never going to outstay its welcome. Here we hear Nelson at 83 with such a joy and spirit in his voice and playing. And again, the band, lovely brushed drums, steel guitars, crisp and stately piano lines. It’s a special magic he can conjure. And with the perfect source material it’s a great match.