Thatâs Life, the Willie Nelson way
The living legend of country music has taken 12 standards identified with Frank Sinatra (a.k.a. Old Blue Eyes), given them his distinctive touch and made them sound absolutely divine.
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That’s Life, the Willie Nelson way

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2021 - 12:00am

It was one of those times when I just felt like not listening to today’s usual stuff for a while. So, no more bedroom jazz with Arthur and Rob and that new kid Adie. I also ditched, only for the moment Taylor, Billie and Olivia.

Then I went online and browsed or should I say surfed for new album releases. Who knows there might be treasures waiting to be discovered out there? And what do you know! I did find one. That’s Life, a tribute album to Frank Sinatra by Willie Nelson.

The living legend of country music has taken 12 standards identified with Old Blue Eyes, given them his distinctive touch and made them sound absolutely divine. That does not mean that the Sinatra versions are not divine. They are, the Sinatra way. This That’s Life is Nelson’s way.

The line-up reads like the great American songbook and Nelson sets his raspy tones against lush orchestrations. Not truly country but then this guy can sing anything. That’s Life, Nice Work if You Can Get It, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, You Make Me Feel So Young, Luck Be a Lady Tonight, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, Learnin’ the Blues, Lonesome Road and others.

Like Sinatra did, Nelson goes jazzy, I Won’t Dance (Don’t Ask Me), a duet with Canadian diva, Diana Krall, swings a lot, Just in Time, and really gets sentimental, A Cottage for Sale, the loveliest of the lot. Even the cover is a take-off from an iconic Sinatra album. It is a painting of Nelson carrying his guitar, named Trigger under a lighted lamp post.

Now, Nelson singing the standards is really nothing new. Way back during the late ‘70s, he came out with this superb album of oldies titled Stardust. I don’t really know if it is my favorite but I can tell you that it is one of the most played among the albums I have.

Behind his soothing nasal drawl and confident delivery is an involving vocalist, who can elicit so much emotion from his listeners. I believe that a lot of people agree with that description because Stardust has already sold over five million copies. That means five times Platinum.

There was also another Sinatra tribute from Nelson a few years ago titled My Way, which won the Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Album. Nelson and Sinatra were close friends so it is no surprise that Nelson is paying tribute to his departed buddy in the best way he knows how, by recording Sinatra songs.

My Way includes Fly Me to the Moon, Summer Wind, One for my Baby One More for The Road, A Foggy Day in London Town, It was a very Good Year; Blue Moon, I’ll be Around, Night and Day, What is this Thing Called Love, a duet with Norah Jones, Young at Heart and My Way, which done the Nelson way is a moving look at a life well-lived.

That’s Life comes with a shoulder shrug. Hey, that’s life. And Nelson evokes the feeling very well. Why not, this guy is a living legend. He is 88 years old. That is not as old as Tony Bennett, who is turning 94 this year, but old enough to say that’s life and mean it.

By the way, he is also a staunch advocate for the use of marijuana. A Nelson myth that has been going around for years is that when he was asked by his doctor to give up either marijuana or cigarettes, he chose to give up cigarettes.

Nelson has been singing since he was 10 years old. That’s Life is his 71st solo album. He is an actor, writer and songwriter. Did you know that he composed Crazy, which is one of the greatest country music classics of all time? He also wrote Funny How Time Slips Away and that beautiful Christmas song, Pretty Paper.

I like Nelson best though as a singer, Always on my Mind, To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before, On the Road Again and when he sings the standards, especially Sinatra.

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