At 75 and with a legacy as a national musical treasure already firmly cemented, youâ€™d think Willie Nelson would at least take a little time off to relax. On average, the prolific cowboy churns out at least two or three releases a year. This year looks to be no different.
Just three months into the new year, Naked Willie is his first offering for 2009. The record takes 17 of Nelsonâ€™s older songs (all originally recorded between 1966-1970, when Nelson was signed to RCA), all admittedly very slick, over-polished tunes when they were originally released, and strips away the veneer.
When they were originally put to wax, Nelson had little say about the arrangements or the musicians that backed him up. Now that heâ€™s got a lot more pull, Nelson along with his longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael have taken out the sappy string arrangements and hokey backing chorus and released the songs as Nelson had originally envisioned them.
The result, though not a massive departure, is definitely an improvement. Songs like â€œLaying My Burdens Down,â€ â€œSunday Morning Coming Downâ€ and â€œI Just Dropped By,â€ sound that much better without the unnecessary musical distractions. For anyone who has failed to succumb to the brilliance of Nelson over the past three decades, Naked Willie likely isnâ€™t going to change any minds, but to fans this album is certainly worth owning.
Top Tracks: â€œLaying My Burdens Down,â€ â€œSunday Morning Coming Downâ€ and â€œI Just Dropped By.â€
Rating: 8.5 out 10
Willie Nelson â€“ Naked Willie (CD) / RCA and Legacy Records / 17 Tracks / http://www.legacyrecordings.com