What's an country outlaw doing, singing a bunch of old pop standards? Creating a masterpiece, of course, with this 1978 album that's become a true classic.
Willie Nelson has never been one to do the safe or expected, and this Booker T. Jones-produced album of pop standards from the '30s and '40s certainly fits the profile. It's also one of the better albums of Nelson's career, allowing Willie to dip his fragile, quivering tenor all around the beat in songs like "All of Me" and "Unchained Melody." Jones's organ, piano, and string arrangements are low-key and swinging (except on the almost wooden "On the Sunny Side of the Street"), and Nelson's vocals on "Georgia on My Mind" and "Moonlight in Vermont" are filled with a dignified and slightly jazzy country soul. The 1999 reissue adds a pair of bonus cuts to the mix, including the lullaby-like "Scarlet Ribbons" and the somewhat out-of-place "I Can See Clearly Now." --David Cantwell