Willie Nelson's latest album of pop standards arrives as his label Legacy Recordings designates him Artist of the Month. Let's Face the Music and Dance comes out Apr. 16. The Red Headed Stranger turns 80 on Apr. 30.
Nelson taps classic songs by Irving Berlin (the title track and "Maria"), Frank Loesser ("I Wish I Didn't Love You So"), Carl Perkins ("Matchbox") and Django Reinhardt (instrumentals "Vous Et Moi" and "Nuage"). As always, Nelson's in terrific voice and adds significant flourishes on acoustic guitar. He's joined by his stellar band that includes the dulcet tones of Mickey Raphael on harmonica.
Most of the album is pretty laid back and mid-tempo. He picks up the pace on "Matchbox," which the Beatles famously covered. "I ain't got no matches," Nelson admits, "but I got a long way to go."
"South of the Border" is a particularly appropriate choice, since the Texas-born Nelson grew up so close to Mexico. "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" harkens back to a time when people said "swell." On the sweet and romantic "Walking My Baby Back Home," his sister Bobbi takes several solid piano solos.
Whether it's pop, country, jazz or reggae, Nelson brings total commitment to the song and performance. Except for perhaps techno, there's little he can't do. Nelson's been mining the American Songbook since 1978, starting with Stardust. Let's Face the Music and Dance is a lively, fun nostalgia trip. Willie Nelson never disappoints.