Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson, Vol. 2 [Eclipse Music Group]

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Before he became a virtual American icon (singer, songwriter, actor, activist, symbol of Gentle Rebellion), Willie Nelson plugged away in Nashville in the 1960s selling his songs and sometimes singing them. His individualistic style went against the grain of the Music City establishment--some were dismayed that a country singer would dare to sing a self-penned blues song: the classic, often-covered "Night Life."

This budget-priced collection of early Nelson has a fine selection of rough gems: the yearning but strangely fatalistic "Undo the Wrong," which features Nelson's voice and guitar with only pedal steel guitar for accompaniment. Also included are the dusky, tough-yet-tender "Night Life"; and "I Just Don't Understand," where Nelson sees a relationship ending, yet implores that his "ex" excuse him for not "understanding" the situation. It's this gift for seeing and expressing the "shades of gray" in life and relationships (as well as his gentle, world-weary singing) that has shown Nelson to be one of the most singular talents in country music (and American popular music as well).

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