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Songbird

25 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 31, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Despite coming from different musical backgrounds, Willie Nelson and Ryan Adams find an amazing middle-ground with their first full-length collaboration. The beautifully textured Songbird pays homage to a widely diverse group of songwriters such as Leonard Cohen, Gram Parsons, Fleetwood Mac, and The Grateful Dead, and features originals from both Willie and Ryan. The album sits perfectly between the traditional country music Willie almost single-handedly carried into the new millennium and the dissonant guitar-driven rock Ryan has melded together in the last few years with The Cardinals.

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For better and for worse, this trans-generational pairing of Willie Nelson and producer Ryan Adams takes the veteran into musical territory where he wouldn't have likely ventured on his own. There's long been an organic unity to Nelson's signature sound--the way his conversational phrasing plays against the staccato runs of his gypsy guitar, with the backing of a band that's been with him so long he calls them Family. On Songbird, Adams substitutes the more aggressively electric backing of his own band, the Cardinals, and plainly had a large say in selecting and arranging the material. Two highlights that most bear his imprint are "Blue Hotel," which Adams wrote for the project and with which Nelson plainly connects, and the bluesy, ominous arrangement by Adams of the closing "Amazing Grace," which sounds closer to "House of the Rising Sun." At the other extreme, Nelson's lumbering take on the Grateful Dead's "Stella Blue," which culminates in an electric squall, sounds like the kind of music Willie would rather not listen to, let alone make. And the hard-edged riffing on "$1000 Wedding" practically bludgeons the Gram Parsons song to death. While the three Nelson originals (two old, one new) all work fine, the rest is hit (Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah") and miss (the title cut, by Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie). It has been said that Nelson can sing just about anything--which doesn't necessarily mean that he should. --Don McLeese


Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 31, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Lost Highway
  • ASIN: B000IFRQH2
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,001 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Kyle VINE VOICE on December 15, 2006
Format: Audio CD
"Amazing Grace" is probably my all-time favorite song. I have versions of it from everywhere including Africa and Ireland. Though I knew the song scanned to "House of the Rising Sun," I'd never heard anyone record it with that arrangment. Probably only Willie could get by with it--and yes he does. It's something of an ominous message: Repent--or else!

The title cut, "Songbird" is the old Eva Cassidy icon. Willie's version is good--but won't re-define the song.

"Hallelujah" (Leonard Cohen) is always amazing. Glad to hear Willie doing it.

The whole collection all has a different take on the classics. I like the idea of Nelson teaming up with Ryan Adams--adds a bit of spice to classic performer.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Smallchief on November 20, 2006
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Willie Nelson may be over 70 years old but he is undaunted by trying new kinds of music. This album features a rocking background of electric guitars, a bluesy beat, and a gospel chorus. Not exactly traditional Nelson music, although on a couple of songs you hear the unmistakable twang of Willie playing his beaten and battered acoustic guitar.

I like most of these songs. "Rainy Day Blues" sounds just like a song of this title should; "We don't run" is an uptempo makeover of a song he wrote and previously recorded; "$1000 Wedding" is a fine version of an old Gram Parsons song. "Songbird" belongs to Eva Cassidy, but Willie's version is tolerable. "Amazing Grace" is New Orleans-y and sounds more like "St. James Infirmary" than "Amazing Grace."

None of these songs blow me away -- but it's a pleasant listenable CD with some interesting backing instrumentation. One of Willie's old comrades who appears on this CD is Mickey Raphael on harmonica and his playing is -- as always -- a highlight.

Smallchief
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mark Barry TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 3, 2008
Format: Audio CD
One other reviewer commented on the lack of writing credits on this title - and I agree. It's astonishing that there isn't any - nor even a booklet supplied. The CD is housed in a card gatefold digipak and the inner flap lists production credits (Ryan Adams) and recording venues, a list of the band who played on it (The Cardinals) and some other minor details on additional participants - and that's it. No lyrics - no idea of who wrote what or why...

In order to straighten this out, the following should help:

1. Rainy Day Blues (Willie Nelson)
2. Songbird (Fleetwood Mac cover, originally on Rumours (1977) but also closely associated with Eva Cassidy)
3. Blue Hotel (written by Ryan Adams, a STUNNER, played live with the Cardinals on the recent BBC Sessions)
4. Back To Earth (Willie Nelson)
5. Stella Blue (a Grateful Dead cover)
6. Hallelujah (a Leonard Cohen cover, also closely associated with Jeff Buckley who covered it too)
7. $1000 Wedding (a Gram Parsons cover)
8. We Don't Run (Willie Nelson)
9. Yours Love (Willie Nelson)
10. Sad Songs & Waltzes (Willie Nelson)
11. Amazing Grace (the Traditional Gospel song covered a la "House Of The Rising Sun" style)

I must admit that I initially bought this solely for the "Blue Hotel" track by Ryan Adams, which was played live by Adams with The Cardinals on the recent TV aired BBC Sessions. The song brought a rousing cheer from the audience - most knowing they hadn't heard it before - and absolutely loving it. It's similar to "Everything I Do" by WHISKEYTOWN and has a melody and lyrics that hook you instantly. It's sloppy like FACES love songs are - a classic in the making.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Heering on July 3, 2007
Format: Audio CD
This Willie Nelson album was released on Halloween, 2006. It was produced by Ryan Adams and features Adams and his band, The Cardinals. The music has an alt-county feel to it, not surprisingly. I like the album quite a bit, and was surprised to see several negative reviews of it. I suppose that means it's not for everyone's taste, but the same thing can be said for any album, can't it? Perhaps the negativity comes from Willie Nelson fans who don't appreciate the Ryan Adams influence on the album, or Ryan Adams fans who don't appreciate Willie's singing. Well, regardless of what the naysayers think, I like it. I especially like "Songbird", "Hallelujah" and "We Don't Run"; not that my opinion counts for more than anybody else's opinion. You shouldn't listen to me anyway, you should make up your own mind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Greg L. Rodgers on November 10, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Give this 7 listens. Most of Ryan Adams work requires up to 7 listens before he gets you...and then forget about it. You'll be hooked. But don't worry, he has plenty of research for you thanks to his prolificality.

Songbird is a great new sound for Willie Nelson as well. For the old fans let go of your tartar sauce and let Willie expand your mind as he is probably expanding his as we speak...or at least as we read. So some of the sounds are a little new for you, tell you what: giddy-up the RV, lock this disc in position for non-stop play and listen to it til you get to Canada*. If you still don't like it, throw the disc out the window...and then just try to get the songs out of yer head!

*this assumes you are above the mason-dixon line.
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