Willie Nelson

Let's Face the Music and Dance – 2013 (Sony Legacy)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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Willie Nelson celebrated his 80th birthday in April by releasing this collection of classics. There is 1 Nelson original here, an acoustic version of the relatively obscure track Is the Better Part Over from Nelson's 1989 album "A Horse Called Music," but for the most part, Nelson puts his unique stamp on pop, jazz and country standards.

The '50s pop/rock era is represented by an effective rendition of The Platters' hit Twilight Time and a rocking version of Carl Perkins' Matchbox. The jazz influence is prominent throughout, primarily on the Irving Berlin title track and the Fred Ahlert/Roy Turk tune Walking My Baby Back Home, most notably recorded by Nat King Cole. The instrumentals Vous Et Moi and Django Reinhardt's Nuages are showcases for Nelson's stellar jazz guitar work.

Amongst the strongest tracks are the Moon Mullican classic I'll Keep On Loving You , Spade Cooley's Shame On You and the Gene Autry 1939 movie tune South of the Border.

Nelson's brilliant guitar work is nicely supported throughout, notably by sister Bobbie Nelson on piano (featured most prominently on Twilight Time and Walking My Baby Back Home) and longtime collaborator Mickey Raphael, who delivers a scorching harmonica on Matchbox. Also on hand are Kevin Smith (bass), Paul English (drums), Jim "Moose" Brown (organ), Billy English (drums, guitar) and son Micah Nelson on percussion.

Though Willie Nelson is one of the preeminent songwriters of the past half century he proves once again with this effort that he is also a brilliant interpreter of other composers' work.