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4 out of 5 stars
The Little Willies
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80 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2006
Format: Audio CD
This disc is a true pleasure. I've been listening to the stream of the album pre-release courtesy of the Amazon digital locker. The music is loose, fun, a mix of Americana covers and great originals. You can tell these musicians are having grand old time playing their favorites. (Their fun may be captured best in the closer "Lou Reed," with one of the cooler lines heard in a while: "Now we don't mean to sound like we're tripping, but we swear to god we saw Lou Reed cow-tipping.") Of all the great songs on this, my favorites are two originals: "Easy as the Rain" and "Roll On," the latter showcasing Norah Jones' gorgeous vocals (who keeps sounding better and better).

The band is Lee Alexander (bass), Jim Campilongo (electric guitar), Norah Jones (piano, vocals), Richard Julian (guitar, vocals) and Dan Rieser (drums). Here's a list of the songs, whether they're originals or covers (and who popularized them):

"Roly Poly" (Fred Rose cover, Hank Williams popularized)

"I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive" (Fred Rose cover, Hank Williams popularized)

"Love Me" (Leiber/Stoller cover Elvis Presley popularized)

"It's Not You It's Me" (original by Richard Julian)

"Best of All Possible Worlds" (Kris Kristofferson cover)

"No Place To Fall" (Townes Van Zand cover)

"Roll On" (original by Lee Alexander)

"I Gotta Get Drunk" (Willie Nelson cover)

"Streets of Baltimore" (Gram Parsons cover)

"Easy as the Rain" (original by Richard Julian and Jim Campilongo)

"Tennessee Stud" (Jimmy Driftwood cover)

"Night Life" (Breeland/Buskirk/Nelson cover, Willie Nelson popularized)

"Lou Reed" (original by Alexander/Julian/Jones)
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
The Willies is a joyous group of five talented musicians paying tribute to their master, Willie Nelson. Willie" Norah Jones" is best known as the singer/pianist, and for her CD, "Come Away With Me' for the 2002 season. Willie "Richard Julian" plays great guitar, various keyboards and even some bass. Willie "Jim Campilongo" is a master electric guitar player. Willie "Lee Alexander" is a bass player and song writer. He collaborated with Norah during 2002 and they brought home the "Album of the Year". Wille "Dan Rieser" the drum player. They all came together to play at "The New York City living Room" and developed the idea to produce a record. The Willies is the result of these five friends and musicians combined with rhythm and blues, honky tonk and country. It is a time gone past and brought to the present.

The first song is a classic country western, "Roly Poly". The band jumps quickly from bass/thump to guitar and then Norah's piano plays. And Norah and Julian star with their vocals, jumping this number right into the front line.

The second tune "I'll Never Get Out" features Julian's vocals with Norah's back up. Campilongo's guitar shows his gift for handling blues and he sounds like a jazz afficianado

Elvis Presley's popular tune, "Love Me' is the third song. Norah Jones does the lead vocals and Julian supports her. They blend beautifully and make this song their own.

"It's Not You It's Me" is a Julian original song that is as honky tonk as you can get with Norah showcasing her talent in a slower version of this jive.

Kris Kristofferson tune `Best Of All Possible Worlds" is next and this faster pace leads into a frenzied guitar solo, as well as Reiser playing drums and Alexander's bass work. Again Julian's and Norah are the vocals that lead this train driving beat.

One of my favorites, Townes Van Zandts "No Place To Fall" showcases Julian's vocals and features the talents of the entire group.

"Roll On" is another original tune, this one from bass man Alexander. Norah Jones's makes this song her own. Her lovely voice is made for this one.

"Gotta Get Drunk" is a playful delivery that those of us who are fans of Norah Jones have not heard before.

The second Nelson number, "Nightlife," is a solid country blues once more led by Jone's vocals and skill.

"Streets of Baltimore" is another song that belongs on this album. Its pure country sound and made for Julian's vocals.

"Tennessee Stud" is a funny western story song. This tune stands out for its rolling piano and out-of-sight guitar work; its infectious thump and shuffle beat make it a solid country rocker.

The Little Willies rounds up with a couple of originals: the slow ballad "Easy As The Rain" which was penned by Julian and Campilongo, and is a beautiful love song.

The closing track is "Lou Reed," a playful little ditty that has Julian giving his best impression of the fellow New Yorker and rock pioneer. The entire band joins in on vocals and have a blast together, solidifying their "live" sound.

The Little Willies album is a joyous expression of talented musicians coming together to have a good time making music, the way music should be made. Simple and maintaining a loose, live sound that keeps this album moving right along. The entire band is solid. This New York City unit is masterful at what they do. Highly Recommended. prisrob 3-11-06
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2006
Format: Audio CD
I'm a recording engineer by trade. I sit in little rooms with no windows and big speakers listening to the same song for 15 hour stretches for weeks in a row. Every now and again a record will roll through that is actually fun to make. This sounds like one of those recordings.

Whether or not the players took this seriously or not will only be known to them and the production team, but the presentation comes across as if it was just a bunch of talented friends hanging around a studio and having some fun making music.

With a great cover version of one of my absolute favorite Hank songs, the album might have been able to leave one or two songs in the can... but rip the album to an iPod and those songs can be the right breath of fresh air as you're driving. The audio quality and production decisions of the recording should also be noted. Yeah, there are some notes of questionable tuning but the their presentation is so believable the record would not have been served if those notes had been corrected. Matt Marinelli captured the sounds with perfection, and didn't over process or manipulate it later [or so it seems!!].

The record works for me in a big way and I for one am exceptionally happy to own a copy of this recording [a client for whom I'm going to start a project in a few months sent me the copy as a kind of template for the way he'd like his project to come out... if we get 1/2 way there then that is going to be one damn fun project!!].
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2006
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I purchased this album after hearing a track on local radio and being taken with the musicality. After having heard the album several times now I am not sure which is my favourite track but one thing is for sure, despite there being some serious mus'os on this album Norah Jones for me is a standout. If you want to kick back and listen to something a little different give this album a try. It has some great tracks and even the tracks that are not so fantastic are still better than most fillers on other cd's.

Gerry
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
These musicians started playing live gigs together in New York City just for the fun of it. They kept coming back. Eventually, they went into the studio to cut some tracks. The feel is loose. The sound reflects the great love of the music and the fun the musicians had together. The sound is infectious. No, this is not a Norah Jones record. Nor is it meant to be, thus the band title "The Little Willies" and the Milking Bull music label. Therefore, the musicians have gone to great pains not to create false expectations.

The music here is quite endearing. I remember listening to Hank Williams' records with "I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive." Hank's classic sound often had a forlorn quality when he sang. The Willies boogie through the tune as if death were quite a party. Townes Van Zandt's high tenor also made you think he was the loneliest man on Earth. On his "No Place to Fall," Richard Julian goes deep and mines the great wistfulness in the melody, "I'm here & I'm gone & I'm forever blue, oh but I'm sure wanting you." Gram Parsons sang "Streets of Baltimore" with Emmylou Harris' angelic backing. With Richard Julian and Norah Jones, the song feels a bit more upbeat with Jones' vibrant piano. The Willies really polish this melody. I keep hitting repeat when it comes on the changer. Other tracks like "Easy As the Rain" & "Roll On" are also outstanding. This is an excellent project from these musicians. The love comes through. Enjoy!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2007
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
For those of us who prefer our artists to have more talent than spin-doctor marketing this CD will help fill that hole in our auditory souls. Lee Alexander not only plays great bass but has offered a dependably strong production. And what can one say about Nora Jones? Her love of pure country comes through in her smooth, easy, yet sophisticated phrasings that often make you close your eyes and smile. What a gem this CD is and once you hear it I'm sure that you, too, will be ready to thank Nora for keeping her feet planted firmly on the ground and inviting us to spend a little time with The Little Willies.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2006
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I purchased this CD before going on vacation. With both a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old in the car, we had to endure the loud soundtracks of movies from the back seat. And, when I suggested that we turn off the TV and listen to a CD, they were both unhappy! That is, until I popped in this CD. These happy tunes made all of us smile and my kids even started to sing along! If you want a CD that will make your day, purchase this one!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Not too long ago, I saw a promotional banner for "The Little Willies" popping up on the iTunes music store homepage. Intrigued by the album cover that showed none of the faces of the musician, I clicked on it and listened to the sample tracks. I really liked the smoky, magnetic voice of the female lead singer and the jolly atmosphere that the music created. I decided to check up more by visiting this band's official website. Lo and behold - that very voice that attracted me was actually Norah Jones! (And the rest of the members are her good friends etc. etc. won't even go into that)

I really like Norah Jones' music and I've played COME AWAY WITH ME and FEELS LIKE HOME to death. "Don't Know Why" and "WHAT AM I TO YOU?" records a total play count of a couple hundred of times. I didn't even bother listening to the rest of the samples on THE LITTLE WILLIES - I bought the CD the very next day. Guess what? I have also played THE LITTLE WILLIES countless times.

This is a great buy. THE LITTLE WILLIES is a simple, down to earth record. It has no epic intentions of becoming the masterful release of the year, nor shattering musical boundaries and conquering sales charts. It is MUSIC - warm, delightful and very real. People have mentioned that the CD sounds like a live nightclub performance. I agree, and that's what makes it authentic.

I especially like the ballads rather than the uptempo songs. The best tracks, in my opinion, are the originals performed in Norah Jones' normal jazzy way - "Roll On" and "Easy As The Rain". These tracks are laid-back, breezy and feature the 'oh-so-famous' tinkling of Norah Jones' piano playing. They ARE similar to some songs found on Norah Jones' CDs and if you loved those CDs, these two tracks alone should compel you to buy THE LITTLE WILLIES.

On to other songs - being a fan of Elvis, Norah Jones' rendition of "Love Me" is most welcomed and enjoyed addition to this CD. Jazzed up and given a real sense of groovy 'oomph', "Love Me" is covered to perfection. A real enjoyment. Other tracks to note are "Streets Of Baltimore" and "It's Not You It's Me". The former features vocals other than Norah Jones. "Roly Poly" features excellently the collective musical instruments and singing of EVERYONE and is a good opener to the CD. It is upbeat, cheerful and will definitely put a smile on your face.

Overall, this CD is both country and jazz, and the bulk of it consists of covers of country favourites. If you like country, or if you like jazz and don't expect your music to be clearly defined and to strictly fall within a certain genre, you'll be fine with THE LITTLE WILLIES.

Note that this CD is NOT all about Norah Jones, but I'm only gushing over Norah Jones because I dare admit, the primary reason I paid this CD any attention is because of Ms Jones herself. That's a little biased, I know, but hey - Norah Jones has become a brand of music that I like. As such, if you found Norah Jones' music dull, please, stay away from this. But if you like relaxing music on a Sunday morning or on a Friday evening, THE LITTLE WILLIES is perfect.

4.5 stars. Buy.

Liam F.
28 June 2006
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Any band that's got Norah Jones in it, is bound to attract a lot of attention.While this five-opiece band has been performing on and off for a number of years in and around New York, their profile took to new heights when they decided to record an album made up primarily with covers of old country tunes the band members like a lot.

"The Willies" (13 tracks, 43 min.) starts off with a funny "Roly Roly", followed by "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive". Richard Julian and Norah Jones take turns on lead vocals, and duet on a couple of songs. On "Roll On", one of the 4 original songs on the album, and "Night Life", the least country-like of the songs, it feels like a Norah Jones solo-album. Other highlights include "Streets of Baltimore" and "Best of All Possible Worlds". The album is sequenced very well, and before you know it, the closer "Lou Reed" has come and gone as well.

"The Little Willies" is a pleasant album with out a doubt. But it is veyr unlikely that this would have found its way to many CD collections, but for the fact that Norah Jones is in the band. Speaking of which, Norah's new albu is set for release in early 2007. Until then, "The Little Willies" is a fun divert.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2006
Format: Audio CD
I've been waiting for a new Norah Jones album for a while as I'm sure many of you have. So one day I heard the song "Roll On" on one of my cable music channels. It said it was "The Little Willies" but the distinctive voice and piano riffs told me it was Norah Jones. So I went right here to Amazon and I was right. I'm disapointed though that this album wasn't promoted because this is something people should hear! I'm not a country music fan at all but I'm not really sure you could define this music country. Jones infuses her spectacular voice and piano chops throughout the album even on the songs she doesn't sing lead vocals, which are a few. But make no mistake this is for all intents and purposes a new Norah Jones album, and it's great. I'd say it's better than her first two albums. The songs let her stretch out her vocals a little more and they show her sense of humor and fun. I hope the word gets out about "The Little Willies" because the 10-15 million people who bought Jones' other two albums will surely love this as much as I do.
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