Opening with Nelson's "Rainy Day Blues," featuring Raphael and Adams in deep blues counterpoint, Willie seems to take energy from the ban; finding a slippery sense of time in the verses, he walks between the instrumentalists. It's an unlikely opener but a fine one. Christine McVie's classic title track, originally appearing on Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, has been utterly reinvented here.
Reviews have been rather mixed for this Ryan Adams-produced album of mostly cover songs that all feature Ryan Adams's backing band. But last December, when word got out that Adams and Nelson were recording together, the news spread like wildfire in giddy anticipation of an oldie-meets-newbie songwriter relationship that could blossom into something special. Alas, it didn't.
Leave it to Willie. Not many legends would follow one of their best albums, You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker, released in March, with one of their worst. Songbird might have sounded like a good idea through a late-night tour bus haze shared with producer and labelmate Ryan Adams, but the execution is another thing altogether. That odor is so obvious that one can almost smell the clouds of pungent smoke hanging over the studio on lackadaisical opener "Rainy Day Blues." While the album has Willie Nelson's name on it, and he's the singer, Songbird has more of Adams' fingerprints on it than anyone else's.