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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Willie Nelson's Eight Best Musical Collaborations

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 3:32 AM

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4. "The Maker" - Willie Nelson with Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois

After releasing a gospel-themed country album in 1997, Nelson's genre shifted a bit with his next release, 1998's Teatro. The album, produced by Brian Eno collaborator Daniel Lanois, featured re-workings of many of Nelson's songs from the '60s, adding more complex drum parts and other instrumentation to bring a bit more darkness into the tracks' classic country sounds.

Nelson would also record one of Lanois' songs, "The Maker," originally featured on his debut Acadie. The remake would showcase Nelson's voice (and Emmylou Harris' harmonies) with more clarity than Lanios did in the original, as well as bringing up a syncopated drum pattern to match the level of the track's bouncing bass line.

3. "Songbird" - Willie Nelson with Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

With two artists as notably prolific as Willie Nelson and Ryan Adams, one might expect the combination of the two to yield sessions bulging with b-sides and extra material. Songbird, Nelson's 2006 album produced by Adams, however, produced only two new tracks -- Adams's "Blue Hotel" and Nelson's "Back to Earth."

While most of the album featured re-interpretations of classic Nelson tunes by Adams and his band the Cardinals, covers of Christine McVie's "Songbird" and Gram Parson's "$1,000 Wedding" serve as the album's stand-outs. The Cardinals flesh out the stark vocal and piano arrangement of McVie's original, while a choir gives robust depth to Parson's story of a jilted groom.

2. "Two Men with the Blues" - Willie Nelson with Wynton Marsalis

With the terms "alternative-country" and "country-punk" already coined, why not "jazz-country?" What sounds like a terrible combination that could only be dreamed up by Brian Setzer is pulled off quite beautifully by Nelson and Marsalis on their 2008 collaboration.

The re-interpretation of Nelson's classic "Rainy Day Blues" by itself is worth the price of admission (or download, or whatever). While the original featured jazz instrumentation as well, Marsalis and his band sped up the tempo and added handclaps and shouts, giving the track an upbeat quality reminiscent of a late-night impromptu jam in the back of a smoky club.

1. "Walkin'" - Willie Nelson with Norah Jones

In the tradition of Johnny and June Carter Cash, and Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, Nelson paired with eighteen different vocalists ranging from Dolly Parton to Brandi Carlile on his 2013 album To All the Girls.

Showcasing Norah Jones' sweet vocal innocence against his own weary wisdom, "Walking" tells the tale of a lover ready to leave.

Look, just watch the above video. Who is that guy? Why is he just standing there? Why would you put up a video of yourself just standing there in a windbreaker?

Willie Nelson 8 p.m. Thursday, April 2. Lindenwood's J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts, 2300 West Clay Street, St. Charles. $69.59 tp $99.50. 636-949-4433.


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