Willie Nelson proved long ago he is one of the greatest artists of all-time. Yet every year he continues to release multiple projects into his 80s. He has nothing to prove and makes music at this point simply because he’s damn good at it and enjoys it. It’s pretty amazing to watch a proven artist put out more music trying to prove himself than modern artists who never write like they’re trying to prove something and just play it safe. On Willie’s latest project My Way he’s chosen to cover his old friend and legendary Frank Sinatra’s classic songs. It’s sort of a follow-up to Nelson’s classic album Stardust, where he proved how well jazz and country can be fused together. The album is so appropriately titled, as Willie Nelson exemplifies as much as anyone the importance of doing things your own way.
The album opens with the springy and upbeat “Fly Me to the Moon.” The horn section and the piano along with Mickey Raphael’s signature harmonica play make for the perfect sunny day song. “Summer Wind” feels like the perfect song for this time of the year, as the season turns from summer into fall. Songs such as “One For My Baby (And One More for the Road)” and “Blue Moon” don’t feel much different from Willie’s numerous heartbreak drinking songs over the years. The commonalities between country and jazz are quite apparent when you break it down and you realize while two genres can sound the same, both can do a beautiful job of conveying something.
Willie does an admirable job keeping up with the jaunty “A Foggy Day,” crooning with ease along with the bright horns and melody. Credit to producers Buddy Cannon and Matt Rollings for nailing the jazz country sound that compliments Willie’s voice well throughout the album. “I’ll Be Around” and “Young at Heart” feel like songs that would have fit well on his album Last Man Standing he released earlier this year, with their stark takes on more somber subjects. Willie brings the enthusiasm and tenderness to give a real light to the love song “Night and Day.” He also sounds great with Norah Jones on the love duet “What Is This Thing Called Love.” This isn’t the first time the two have sang together, as they covered “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in 2010. With Jones being a successful jazz artist herself and Willie having a lot of experience with the genre, it’s no surprise they pair together well. The album’s conclusion with the title track couldn’t be a more perfect bow on the album. The songs reflective nature and acknowledgement of a life lived just fits Nelson in this time of his career like a glove.
Like Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson has certainly done it his way. I think “Ol’ Blue Eyes” would be pretty proud of the job Willie has done with My Way, doing Sinatra’s songs the justice they deserve. With the silly boycotts some have staged against Nelson for his support of Beto O’Rourke in Texas, it’s actually brought the album even more attention and sales. I’m glad because this is an album you shouldn’t dismiss due it being covers. Any time Willie Nelson releases new music, it’s worth listening to and My Way proves this yet again.
Album’s Top Highlights: My Way, Summer Wind, Fly Me to the Moon, A Foggy Day, What Is This Thing Called Love, Young at Heart
Producers: Buddy Cannon & Matt Rollings