Willie Nelson – That’s Life (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 34:38 minutes | 378 MB | Genre: Country
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Legacy Recordings
Honoring the enduring inspiration of Frank Sinatra, That’s Life is Willie Nelson s second album of classics made famous by The Chairman Of The Board. Willie’s first ode to Frank, 2018’s My Way, earned Willie the Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Solo Album, and That’s Life finds Nelson (who has penned a few standards himself) inhabiting 11 more of the most treasured songs in the Great American Songbook including the title track, “Luck Be A Lady,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “You Make Me Feel So Young,” and “I Won’t Dance” (a duet featuring Diana Krall). Produced by Buddy Cannon and Matt Rollings, That’s Life was recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood–where Frank Sinatra, created a string of album masterpieces–with additional recording at Pedernales Studios in Austin, Texas. Willie delivers 11 new studio performances, coming alive in a musical landscape animated by lush string and vibrant horn arrangements on an album mixed by recording industry legend Al Schmitt (who’s recorded and mixed more than 150 gold and platinum albums and won more Grammy Awards than any other engineer or mixer). The album cover features a brand new painting of Willie and his iconic guitar, Trigger, standing in the glow of a twilight streetlamp, evoking classic Sinatra album covers of yore.
It’s fascinating that both Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, late in their careers, have been motivated to record albums of songs associated with Frank Sinatra. While their voices have faded (and could never rival Sinatra’s mastery even in their best days), both of these towering figures, drawn first by the riches of the Great American Songbook, have also lived lives filled with the same highs and lows that powered Sinatra’s original versions.
Given the similarities between Sinatra’s time as a saloon singer and Nelson’s honky tonk years, Willie and his ever-craggier voice are uniquely qualified for another stroll down Tin Pan Alley. His 1978 standards set Stardust was a revelation, flabbergasting country music fans and making Nelson’s canny ambitions a star in the larger music world. In 2016 he tapped into the Gershwins for Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin followed My Way, his first collection of Sinatra-centric standards, two years later.
Now at the tender age of 87, when the sentiments behind Sinatra’s showstopper “My Way” apply to Nelson more than ever, he gives another bravura vocal performance—albeit with a few shaky moments. A classy, smart, tremendously appealing production from start to finish, That’s Life surrounds Nelson’s vocal takes with snappy, brass-heavy arrangements by the multi-talented, Nashville-based keyboardist Matt Rollings who clearly drew inspiration from Sinatra collaborators like Nelson Riddle and Billy May. “Luck Be a Lady,” the only track where Nelson’s voice sounds overmatched, gets a welcome Latin zest; a pair of hits—”I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and “You Make Me Feel So Young”—come off smoothly; a duet with Diana Krall of “I Won’t Dance” is a nice change of pace. And on a relaxed reading of the title track which Nelson sings like he wrote it, Paul Franklin’s steel guitar adds a welcome touch of country music flavor. Of the two weepers here—both of which were among Sinatra’s greatest performances—”In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” works best with Mickey Raphael, longtime member of Nelson’s crew, adding a distinct harmonica solo.
Tracked at Capitol Studios in Hollywood where Sinatra made many of his greatest recordings, and mixed by the great Al Schmitt, the production of That’s Life is focused on Nelson’s voice being front and center in an expansive overall sound that is uncluttered despite a plethora of instruments. A triumph! – Robert Baird
01 – Nice Work If You Can Get It
02 – Just In Time
03 – Cottage For Sale
04 – I’ve Got You Under My Skin
05 – You Make Me Feel So Young
06 – I Won’t Dance (Feat. Diana Krall)
07 – That’s Life
08 – Luck Be A Lady
09 – In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning
10 – Learnin’ The Blues
11 – Lonesome Road