Willie Nelson Songbird

Willie Nelson Songbird
Never one to shy away from an experiment, Nelson here teams with Ryan Adams and his band the Cardinals. On paper, the partnership seems a logical bridging of youth and experience, but with Adams in the producer’s chair, his penchant for overwrought balladry takes Nelson a bit too far out of his natural element. Thankfully, there are enough of Nelson’s own songs ("Back to Earth,” "Sad Songs and Waltzes”) to balance out the covers, and while some of these choices are inspired — Gram Parsons’ "$1000 Wedding” in particular — nothing seems to totally connect. Part of this is due to the obvious weakness heard in Nelson’s voice, something that hasn’t been as evident in his other recent efforts. Elsewhere, it’s simply a case of Adams attempting to adapt Nelson to his own working method, as Daniel Lanois did with Nelson on 1998’s Teatro. Unfortunately, Adams as yet doesn’t possess such proficiency in the studio, making Songbird a valiant effort, but still only a tantalising glimpse at what could have been. (Lost Highway)