Willie Nelson releases about four or five records per year, ranging from reggae to countrypolitan and most things in between, and he’s always felt comfortable and welcome in places where he doesn’t seem to belong. American Classic, his first record of jazz standards since 1978’s mega-selling Stardust, is par for the course. The familiar tenor slips in easily with the woozy horns and smooth pianos, sounding confident and at ease—appropriate for the king of cool.
American Classic finds Willie Nelson re-imagining Tin Pan Alley classics made popular by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, and the country star seems quite comfortable flying to the moon and singing among those stars. Nelson’s weathered voice is complemented by refined instrumentals from a collective of seasoned jazzmen on his Blue Note Records solo debut. But even though he’s wearing a suit on the album cover, this country outlaw hasn’t completely cleaned up his act.
When Willie Nelson took the unexpected step of releasing Stardust in 1978, many predicted that the album of popular standards would severely derail the outlaw country singer's career. Confounding the critics, the disc became Nelson's best-selling effort, and spawned a whole subgenre of modern singers covering the classics. Nelson revisited the format with 1994's orchestral Healing Hands of Time and to varying degrees on several other records, but it wasn't until 2009's American Classic that the red-headed stranger delivered an album billed as the true follow-up to Stardust.
Willie Nelson can do no wrong for most country (and pop) fans, but his latest offering of pop-jazz renderings falls fairly flat. A kind of sequel to the well-acclaimed Stardust, American Classic revisits some old favorite standards, covered previously by Nelson and otherwise. Elevator jazz mixes with a classical shadow of strings for a fairly corny set of songs.
WILLIE NELSON“American Classic”(Blue Note) A little more than 30 years ago Willie Nelson released “Stardust,” an album of standards largely culled from what’s now identified as the Great American Songbook. Produced by Booker T. Jones, it was a spare and mellow meditation and a casual stroke of genius. Mr.