Music Review: Willie Nelson - Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin

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What a great idea. Willie Nelson returns to the Great American Songbook, this time focused exclusively on the works of George and Ira Gershwin. There aren't any revelations here—in fact, it doesn't seem like that was even Nelson's intent. Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin isn't trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it's merely a relaxed, gently swinging stroll through some of the greatest songs ever written.

Highlights among the 11 tunes include lead-off cut "But Not For Me," which won a Grammy for Ella Fitzgerald in 1960. Though it's one of the most-often recorded songs of all time, Nelson's take on the title tune brims with drama. It's pretty wondrous that Nelson, 82 years young (turning 83 in April, in fact), is still in such strong voice. Tunes like "Someone To Watch Over Me" (which he already famously covered some 38 years ago on the all-standards Stardust) aren't done real justice by aged, tired voices. Thankfully there's no such worry here.

A couple of lukewarm duets add a bit of variety but aren't really essential tracks. Cyndi Lauper has some fun trading lines with Nelson on "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." Less effective is a rather colorless effort by Sheryl Crow on "Embraceable You." Neither track is a clunker, by any means—just not the most inspired moments on the record.

The album nicely coincides with Nelson having recently received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize. Sony Legacy's press notes state this marked the first occasion of a country artist winning the Gershwin Prize. A tribute concert was performed in honor of this distinction back in November and was subsequently aired on PBS in January of this year. No word on whether it will be rebroadcast or made available in any other format, but even if you missed it we have Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin to relish.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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