Willie Nelson

The Sound in Your Mind

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Red Headed Stranger propelled Willie Nelson to stardom, finally giving him a smash hit, yet its spare arrangements and hushed intimacy were a bit of an anomaly, both in his prior work and the albums that followed on Columbia. His second LP for the label, 1976's The Sound in Your Mind, opened up the sound of Stranger, retaining some of the low-key vibe, but fleshing out music and even picking up the tempo on occasion. In addition to that, he started delving deep into standards, not just from country artists, but the American popular songbook, pointing the way toward Stardust a few years down the road. So, in many ways, The Sound in Your Mind sets the template for the next few years of albums by Willie. Even if it set a sound in motion, the album wasn't one of his strongest. He would often better it -- and did so immediately, with the tremendous The Troublemaker -- and sometimes he did worse, but The Sound in Your Mind has a little bit of everything that would come on Columbia, both for better and worse. It's a little uneven and unfocused, not because it's so split between covers and originals, but because it meanders, sometimes drifting into overly familiar territory which elicits somewhat lazy performances ("Amazing Grace," for instance), but songs equally familiar -- "That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day)," or a medley of his standards: "Funny How Time Slips Away," "Crazy," and "Night Life" -- are given subtle, inspired arrangements. The true highlights are the original "The Healing Hands of Time," revived from his RCA years and given possibly the definitive treatment here, and especially a vigorous version of Lefty Frizzell's "If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time," so good that it led to a stellar tribute record just a year later. The rest of the album is good but rather standard-issue Willie -- worth hearing and very enjoyable, but not enough to compel regular listens.

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