Willie Nelson

The Songs

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Willie Nelson has been making records since 1956, and has been scoring major hit records since 1975, so trying to summarize his career on one CD is no small task. Songs is hardly the first attempt to do just that, with literally dozens of Nelson collections on the market, and there isn't much that's especially remarkable about this one, except for the fact that it makes a genuine attempt to follow the trajectory of Nelson's life in music, and focuses on Willie the songwriter as much as Willie the vocalist. Beginning with Nelson's early recordings of "Crazy" (appearing here in its original demo form) and "Touch Me," Songs throws in a few choice obscurities and fan favorites (such as the sardonic "Good Times" and the sweetly mournful "Yesterday's Wine") along with the hits and perennial classics, such as "On the Road Again," "Whiskey River," and "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain." The set does throw in a few offbeat versions of well-known tunes (a duet with B.B. King on "Night Life," for example) and surprise choices (how did Willie's jazzy version of "The Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie end up here, not to mention a duet with Brian McKnight?), but for the most part Songs collects most of the tunes most closely associated with Willie Nelson in one spot, and it's a pleasant and cohesive listen. But serious fans will have lots of this already and dabblers will probably wonder why some of the tunes they've never heard of are on board, so it's hard to say just who this disc is supposed to please. Points added for Colin Escott's excellent liner notes.

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