Album Reviews

Willie Nelson & Sister Bobbie – December Day: Willie’s Stash Vol. 1

Artist:     Willie Nelson & Sister Bobbie

Album:     December Day: Willie's Stash Vol. 1

Label:     Legacy

Release Date:     12/01/2014

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In its stripped-down simplicity, December Day proves that sister Bobbie Nelson makes a natural partner in crime for “Outlaw Willie,” whose pistol-packing image assumes softer hues in his nostalgic renditions of old favorites. Spanning generations of standards from Irving Berlin to Django Reinhardt, December Day offers an experience similar to the magic of rediscovering a dusty family photo album and bringing new life to the memories.

Willie and Bobbie, along with other Family Band members, perform 18 selections from the Willie Nelson Family Songbook, providing access to a private, fireside jam session, a lifetime of practice in the making. Opening with an unlikely and light-hearted rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” Willie sets the tone for genre-bending innovation.

From there, the album takes a down-tempo turn with the revival of Willie’s “Permanently Lonely.” Foreshadowing his cover of Reinhardt’s “Nuages,” Willie rethinks “Permanently Lonely” with gypsy jazz guitar riffs, woven seamlessly with Michael Raphael’s melancholy harmonica and Bobbie’s slow, spirited piano. The cover of Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do” strikes an even deeper, more somber chord, standing as Willie’s last recording session with his late bassist, Bee Spears.

Providing a bit of comic relief, Willie’s self-deprecating new originals “I Don’t Know Where I Am Today” and “Amnesia” take ironic jabs at Willie’s age with uncomplicated lyrics and structured guitar scales.

As Nelson’s fifth release since signing with Legacy Recordings in 2012, December Day demonstrates Willie’s unquenchable and effortless drive to create poignant music. December Day marks the first installment of the Willie’s Stash archival recordings series, which will feature hand-selected performances from Willie’s nearly 60-year career.

– Alison Wallach

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