Double entendre’s aside, this is a fun album. “The Little Willies” is the self titled debut album by Norah Jones’ country band. She’s joined by singer-songwriter Richard Julian on vocals and a loose collective of their musician friends on bass, guitar, keyboards and drums. They were originally going to do only Willie Nelson songs (hence the name), but while playing one-off gigs between tour dates at the tiny New York club called The Living Room they found they each had a love of many different forms of country music and when their touring schedules allowed, they decided to make an album.
Two Willie Nelson songs remain (“Nightlife” and “Gotta Get Drunk”) from the original concept and they’ve expanded their repertoire to include Townes Van Zandt (“No Place to Fall”), Jimmy Driftwood (“Tennessee Stud”), Kris Kristofferson (“Best of All Possible Worlds”) and other songs made famous by Bob Wills (“Roly Poly”) and Gram Parsons (“Streets of Baltimore”). The best of the original songs is called “Lou Reed” and tells the bizarre tale of spying the iconic New York rocker “cow tipping” in the fields of West Texas. When Jones comments that she thought he was vegetarian, Julian corrects her, “he’s was just tippin’ ‘em over, he wasn’t eating ‘em” to which Jones responds “huh.”
It’s moments like this that typify this easy going album. Jones has loosened up quite a bit since her jazzy debut and this is a natural evolution of her style after 2004’s more countrified “Feels Like Home.” While that album didn’t sell as many copies as “Come Away with Me” she’s clearly not concerned with her image as much as she’s a girl who just wants to have fun.
Listen for lots of songs from “The Little Willies” all this week on Paul Shugrue’s new music show “Out of the Box” Monday through Thursday from 7pm to 9pm and Saturday afternoon from 1pm to 5pm on Public Radio 89.5 WHRV.
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