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Monday, June 19, 2017

Summertime

Willie Nelson singing George Gershwin? Not a likely combo, but Nelson has sung almost everything in his sixty-plus year career. The resulting album, Summertime, won the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album Grammy, and I would have liked to have purchased it even without that distinction.

But. I hate to come down on Willie Nelson, who is as much a music god as any this country has ever produced, but this album is about twenty years too late. Nelson, at 84, just doesn't have the pipes for some of these songs. The title track, for instance, is one of the most beautiful in the American songbook, especially when sung by someone with a superior voice (check out Audra McDonald performing it). Nelson almost speaks-sings it, and while this gives it a certain poignance, it doesn't do service to the song at all.

Other misfires are "Love Is Here To Stay" and "Someone to Watch Over Me." The livelier songs, which don't require as much range, such as "Somebody Loves Me," "They All Laughed," and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" work better (the latter features Cyndi Lauper), while pairing with Sheryl Crow on "Embraceable You" just highlights how much better a singer she is at this stage.

The orchestrations are terrific, though, and on a song like "It Ain't Necessarily So" Nelson is able to use his talents in phrasing and inflection to make it the highlight of the album.

I'm a fan of Willie Nelson and the Gershwins, but this album was a sad disappointment.

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