photo credit: john graboff
American icon, performer, storyteller and marijuana-reform advocate, Willie Nelson has an album slated for a Halloween release next Tuesday. Normally I wouldn’t get too terribly excited about such news as, in my opinion, ole Willie has been phoning it in for some time now (see: last few records) collaborating with all sorts of questionable so-called country artists (see: Toby Keith and his ilk). But, after all, he is Willie, and can do whatever the fuck he wants, the rest of us with our opinions be damned.

But wait, things are different this go around. On Songbird Nelson has teamed up with Ryan Adams and his band The Cardinals, with Adams helming the controls wearing his producer’s hat. Sure, this is a Willie Nelson album, but it’s clearly a Willie Nelson album as seen through the Ryan Adams lens. Just as Daniel Lanois’s production work on Nelson’s 1998 Teatro album. Reportedly the majority of the song selection and arrangements were completely Adams’ call and upon your first listen it’s obvious.

Me? I love it, but my affection for Adams’ music is no secret around these parts. I also happen to be a big Willie fan, so there is yer caveat emptor, dear reader. The sound: The Cardinals rollicking accompaniment adds a needed spark that has been missing for quite some time in Nelson’s recorded music. Adams’ production and arrangement, particularly on the cover songs, wield a power elevating Nelson’s iconic voice and storytelling capabilities to new heights.

Below is the one Adams’ penned song for the album “Blue Hotel.” It’s pure Ryan delivered by one of our country’s national treasures. Also, check out the Cardinals take on the song which has been a mainstay in their live set the past six months.

MP3: Willie Nelson :: Blue Hotel
MP3: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals :: Blue Hotel (live)
Amazon: Willie Nelson – Songbird +++ +++
+ Visit The Hype Machine for additional Willie Nelson MP3s.

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