Phosphorescent - To Willie
(Dead Oceans, 2009)
This is by far the album I have listened to most this year. In my humble opinion it may be the best album of the year. The only thing is that I just can't make up my mind if a album with only covers can be put in the same category as albums with only original material. Whatever I have decided in those regards will be seen in late December when the countdown is posted. Until then this will be my number one album. Matthew Houck aka Phosphorescent have recorded his favourite Willie Nelson tunes, both songs he grew up with and some songs of newer dates. The songs all have two things in common: 1. They are all written by or made famous by Willie Nelson. 2. They are all excellent.
This album has rekindled my love for Willie Nelson. I have always liked the man and his music, but after I heard this album it almost became a sort of obsession of mine to check out all the aspects of his long and winding career. My favourite period is the early to mid-seventies when he was recording for Atlantic and made the albums Shotgun Willie and Phases and Stages. Another favourite from the same period is of course Red Headed Stranger. Of his newer albums the ones I've been listening most to are 1997's Spirit and 2005's Songbird which he recorded with Ryan Adams & the Cardinals.
Back to the album at hand, To Willie. Matthew Houck has taken on these songs with love and respect and though they don't differ all that much from the originals he has still put his own touch to them. And the way he sings them it almost sounds like he has written them himself. Every line sounds like a line he has lived himself. When he sings; "..it's not supposed to be that way. You're supposed to know when I love you. But it don't matter anyway if I can't be there to console you..", it really sounds like he has been there and said those words for real.
The sad songs outnumber the glad songs, as they should on any good country record, but there are also fun uptempo songs as "I Gotta Get Drunk" and "Pick Up the Tempo". None of them quite happy songs, but they come to good use at a party.
So if you should need an introduction to the world of Willie Nelson this album by Phosphorescent could be just that. If you are already a fan, you will love these versions of the songs.
Phosphorescent - Reasons to Quit (live)