Country Music (Rounder Records, 20120)
Whether you’re looking to two step across the carpet, have a good nostalgic weep into your beer or soothe the warm nights with a little country and western soulfulness Willie Nelson’s Country Music got the goods. Set for release on April 20th on Rounder Records, Country Music was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee features a first class band lineup with the likes of banjo player Riley Baugus, mandolin player Ronnie McCoury, electric guitarist Jim Lauderdale and double bassist Dennis Crouch rounding out Mr. Nelson’s sound. If that weren’t enough Country Music‘s producer and all-around music producer extraordinaire, T. Bone Burnett joins the lineup.
As an afterthought the idea of teaming up Mr. Nelson, a man who has some 200 recording credits, the president of Farm Aid and the songwriter who has added the likes of “Crazy,” “Hello Walls” and “Stardust” to the American songbook, with Mr. Burnett, the mastermind behind the music to “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and the Grammy Award-winning Raising Sand with Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, seems like a natural paring, but the pair have never worked together. Country Music proves without a shadow of a doubt that both Mr. Nelson and Mr. Burnett are not just music making icons but essential to the life and breath of the Americana sound.
Country Music opens with the bright, chugging number “Man With The Blues,” and fans get a healthy dose of guitar, slide guitar, fiddle and mandolin. The sound thickens as a warm Texas accent with “Seaman’s Blues” and the misery soaked workman’s song “Dark as a Dungeon.” “Satan Your Kingdom Music Come Down” is stunning with it’s Appalachian bluegrass gospel sound replete with banjo, strings and Mr. Nelson’s vocals.
There’s a bit of a nostalgic feel to Country Music with “My Baby’s Gone,” one of those tears in beer songs like the ones I remember leaking out of bars when I was a kid and and the hot flash of licks train song sound on “Freight Train Boogie.” “Satisfied Mind” is another track that sounds familiar, one of those songs that followed you home like heartache. It’s a bit of a shock due to the amount of country pop music ground out there these days like sausages. Country Music is exactly that – country music.
Mr. Nelson said of this recording, “You hear all kinds of ideas about country music: This is country, or this is, or that was and this ain’t. And it’s all a matter of opinion. But in my opinion, this is the original country music. So I’m really excited for people to hear it.” He goes on, “There are a lot of young people out there who have never heard these songs, and a lot of the older folks like myself haven’t heard them in a long time. It’s the same idea – great old standards that people are either going to recognize or love for the first time.”
Other gems on Country Music include “You Done Me Wrong” and the sassy “Pistol Packin’ Mama.” My personal favorite is the dark, spare “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” Mr. Nelson and Mr. Burnett find a raw-to-bone soulfulness on this track that will raise the hairs on the back of you neck. It’s delicious.
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