Willie Nelson Pays Tribute to the Gershwins

Willie Nelson Gershwin

Willie Nelson’s upcoming album pays homage to the songwriting brothers George and Ira Gershwin. Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin (2016) reminds us that Nelson’s acoustic guitar Trigger and his voice are two of the best friends a music standard can have.

In 1978, Willie Nelson surprised many with his album devoted to the Great American Songbook, Stardust. But nowadays, nobody is really surprised when Nelson ventures outside classic country music in areas such as reggae, jazz, or blues.

On songs such as “Summertime,” Willie Nelson proves he is still one of our great song interpreters with his version of the often-covered “Summertime.” Check out Willie and Trigger on “Summertime” below.

The album features such classics as “I Got Rhythm” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” Below, is his new version of “Someone to Watch Over Me,” which he had previously covered with a different arrangement for Stardust.

A few other singers join Nelson on a couple of the tracks. Cyndi Lauper joins Nelson on a playful “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.” And Sheryl Crow helps out on “Embraceable You.” For a limited time, you may listen to songs from the album on NPR.

Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin hits stores and the Internet on February 26, 2016.

What is your favorite Willie Nelson cover of an American standard? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    The First Song Loretta Lynn Ever Wrote

    Loretta Lynn Whispering Sea Loretta Lynn is releasing her first new studio album since her 2004 collaboration with Jack White, Van Lear Rose. The upcoming album, Full Circle, sounds like it will have been worth waiting for.

    The new album, produced by Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash, delves into Lynn’s roots and influences. According to her website, Full Circle “takes listeners on a journey through Loretta’s musical story, from the Appalachian folk songs and gospel music she learned as a child, to new interpretations of her classic hits and country standards, to songs newly-written for the project.”

    A few guests pop up on the new album too. Willie Nelson joins Lynn on “Lay Me Down,” while Elvis Costello provides guest vocals on “Everything It Takes.”

    The 83-year-old singer-songwriter also includes a new version of the first song she ever wrote, “Whispering Sea.” In the song about heartbreak, the singer recounts how she learned from the whispering sea that her lover had been untrue. In the chorus, she sings: “Whispering sea rolling by, why don’t you listen to me cry? / I cry because my love has proved untrue.”

    The tracks are not available for listening yet, but below you check out a performance of “Whispering Sea” where Lynn was joined onstage by Jack White.

    Loretta Lynn’s Full Circle is available for pre-order and will hit stores and the Internet on March 4, 2016.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp Sing “Night Life”

    Nelson Mellencamp

    This week, John Mellencamp joined Willie Nelson for a bluesy rendition of Nelson’s classic song about living the “Night Life.” The two appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert together, commemorating this weekend’s upcoming thirtieth anniversary of Farm Aid, which is being held in Chicago this year.

    With some help from Nelson’s guitar Trigger along with Mickey Raphael on harmonica, Mellencamp and Nelson give a nice performance. Nelson wrote the song in the late 1950s when he was playing clubs at night in Texas, struggling to make a living. “Listen to the blues that they’re playin’ / Listen what the blues are sayin’.” The song holds up more than fifty years later. Check it out.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Wayne Carson and “Always on My Mind”

    Mind Wayne Carson, who wrote songs such as “Always on My Mind,” passed away on Monday, July 20, 2015. The 72-year-old Carson, who was born with the name Wayne Carson Head, had been suffering a number of health problems.

    Carson wrote or co-wrote a number of great songs such as “The Letter,” which was a hit for The Box Tops and for Joe Cocker, and “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles),” which was a hit in 1975 for Gary Stewart. But his song “Always on My Mind,” for most people, is the first song that will come to mind.

    Johnny Christopher and Mark James, who helped with the bridge of the song, are listed as co-writers, but Carson started writing “Always on My Mind” and finished much of it himself. Since then, more than 300 people have recorded “Always on My Mind,” including a hit version by Willie Nelson in 1982.

    Many people first heard “Always on My Mind” from Elvis Presley, who recorded the song on March 29, 1972 as his marriage to Priscilla Presley was falling apart. Presley recorded several excellent songs that capture the anguish he felt during the time, but “Always on My Mind” stands out. Even though he did not write the songs, Presley knew how to tap into his own emotions to reach the depths of a song’s lyrics.

    While “Always on My Mind” dwells on a common concept of heartbreak, the lyrics strip bare every ounce of pain in the opening lines of regret. Carson recognized that sometimes the worst regret is not for things that we have done but for things that we did not do.

    Maybe I didn’t treat you,
    Quite as good as I should have;
    Maybe I didn’t love you,
    Quite as often as I could have;
    Little things I should have said and done,
    I just never took the time.
    You were always on my mind.

    The greatness of the song is revealed by the fact that two of our greatest interpreters of songs — Nelson and Presley — gave moving renditions of “Always on My Mind.” Today, we mourn the loss of Wayne Carson while thanking him for putting beautiful words and music together that help capture the human condition.

    What is your favorite version of “Always on My Mind”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Willie and Merle Are “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash”

    Willie and Merle

    Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard have teamed up to release the new album Django And Jimmie (2015). The two men, who created country gold with the similarly named 1983 album Pancho & Lefty, feature a range of styles on their new album, incorporating some humor along the way with songs like “It’s All Going to Pot” and “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash.”

    Check out this video about the making of “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash,” a song that also features help from Bobby Bare.

    Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s Django and Jimmie hits stores on June 2, and for a short time you can give it a streaming listen on NPR First Listen. The title song from the album celebrates guitarist Django Reinhardt and country music legend Jimmie Rodgers.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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