Willie Nelson American Classic

Willie Nelson American Classic
Willie Nelson's 1978 album, Stardust, was a simply conceived collection of Tin Pan Alley chestnuts, which nevertheless went on to become one of the biggest sellers of his career. The reason wasn't so much the exemplary production and arrangements but the fact that Nelson's notoriously idiosyncratic phrasing extracted humanity from the material that few other vocalists had been able to do before. He has made a couple attempts since to recreate that magic but not until American Classic has any release been deemed an official Stardust follow-up. The timing in this case seems right, since it's now evident that aging Boomers have adopted the musical sensibilities of their parents, based on the success of Diana Krall, Michael Buble and other opportunistic lounge lizards. Nelson is certainly a cut above that crowd but while American Classic finds him in better voice than on many of his other recent efforts there's nothing on it that resembles the bold artistic statement Stardust originally made. The motivation is seemingly to remind those who have snapped up albums by Krall and Norah Jones, both of whom not surprisingly add their voices to American Classic, who in fact helped lay the foundation for their careers. There's no doubt that "The Nearness Of You," "Ain't Misbehaving," "Fly Me To The Moon" and the rest of the selections are undeniably a part of what shaped Nelson's musical sensibilities but unfortunately, even his immeasurable talents as an interpreter seem stifled on these ready-made arrangements. Get this for your next cocktail party, if you must. (Blue Note)