Let’s Face The Music And Dance
Reviewed by Jane Roser
Willie Nelson, the bandana-wearing, pot smoking, actor, activist, singer-songwriter rebel of outlaw country music has done it again. If you expected a twangy, whiskey-laden album of country music this time around, you would be surprised to hear that Willie Nelson’s newest album, recorded in Austin, Texas with his Family band, is a hard-to-categorize collection of classic pop, jazz, rock and country standards that is a must for any fan of the Red Headed Stranger.
Nelson himself is hard to categorize. Turning 80 at the end of April, Willie Nelson was born in a decade that saw FDR as president, King Kong and Little Women debuted in movie theaters, ‘Stormy Weather’ was at the top of the charts and Bonnie and Clyde survived a shootout in Joplin, Missouri. His hybrid of jazz, pop, blues, rock, folk and country has created a distinct music style that is all his own, which makes him the ultimate master of disguise.
“Let’s Face The Music and Dance” starts the album off with this classic Irving Berlin number written in 1936 for the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Follow The Fleet. Nelson gives this version an honest to goodness breath of fresh air in it’s simplicity. I don’t see Fred and Ginger dancing to this rough around the edges cut, but I would certainly cut a rug to it at a family picnic around the sweet potato pie and cream corn.
Bobbie Nelson, Willie’s sister, is back on piano and it’s nice to hear her subtle rendition, which never overpowers the guitar or vocals. “Is The Better Part Over” is a song Willie Nelson wrote and re-recorded for this album. It’s a sad, sad ballad with beautiful finger picking on what I assume to be Willie’s beloved guitar, Trigger. I especially enjoyed his take on two Django Reinhardt songs, “Vous Et Moi” and “Nuages”, the latter being one of Reinhardt’s most popular pop jazz standards. It’s a welcome break to hear two purely instrumental songs played with such passion and love for the music.
I have always held Willie Nelson in high regard ever since I discovered that he penned Patsy Cline’s hit “Crazy”, which to me is one of the most gorgeous lonely heart tunes ever. So happy birthday, Willie! May you Always Be On My Mind down Whiskey River with a Good Hearted Woman until we meet On The Road Again. So Roll Me Up this Bloody Mary Morning and remember that Dreams Come True as long as your Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.