Half Notes: Willie Nelson – You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker/ Songbird (2006)

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Once you’ve heard Willie Nelson’ You Don’t Know Me: The Songs Of Cindy Walker, a strong album of covers, it’s easy to see where Nelson gets his knack for songwriting: He obviously studied Walker’s template and then took it in his own direction. What’s surprising here is that an album of 50-60 year old music still sounds so vital today. Meanwhile, if Songbird doesn’t sound quite as vital, it’s probably more the source material than Willie himself. Perhaps releasing a companion album of mostly covers was not such a good idea so soon after such a powerful set as You Don’t Know Me, but Songbird has its share of good pieces, too. My favorites are his cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Stella Blue” and his very Willie-like reading of the Leonard Cohen classic, “Hallelujah.” You wouldn’t think it would work, but he makes it work. This album isn’t Stardust certainly, and neither is You Don’t Know Me, but there’s enough here to keep coming back for more.

‘Half Notes’ are quick-take thoughts on music from Something Else! Reviews, presented whenever the mood strikes us.

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