Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis, featuring Norah Jones – Here We Go Again, Celebrating the Genius of Ray Charles – Blue Note 50999-0-96388-22, 60:00 ***½:
(Willie Nelson – vocals & guitar, Norah Jones – vocals, Wynton Marsalis – vocals & trumpet, Dan Nimmer – piano, Mickey Raphael – harmonica, Walter Blanding – vocals & tenor sax, Carlos Henriquez – bass, Ali Jackson – drums and percussion)
Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis get some help from the delightful Norah Jones on the collaborative Blue Note release, Here We Go Again – Celebrating the Genius of Ray Charles. The album includes 12 of Mr. Charles’ most popular songs and was pieced together from live performances at the Rose Theater, Frederick P Rose Hall, February 9 & 10, 2009.
Covering some of the most recognizable pop songs in the last 50 years is quite easy to do. The style in which it’s done on Here We Go Again isn’t. Willie’s picking, Wynton’s blowing along with the velvety smooth Norah Jones reinvent each track.
There could be a complete Genius of Willie Nelson album. Willie lends his own original style to some of the best Ray Charles songs ever produced. Although Willie’s guitar picking is more of an afterthought on the album, when Willie sings, he own the song.
Wynton’s solos throughout the album add a much needed flavor to the songs. By adding splash of freshness into each track, the covers are reinvented and give off a new sound that is needed when producing a tribute album such as this. Marsalis leads the group along and commands perfection, which is delivered throughout.
Bringing in Norah Jones on the last few tracks is a wonderful addition to an already pleasing album. Norah caresses the verses in Cryin’ Time, Hit the Road Jack, I’m Moving On and What’d I Say, definite standout tracks on the album.
An hour of pure entertainment by three hosts that you might not typically group together to perform such songs, yet they give off the impression they have been working together for years. The jazz styling of Marsalis and his band meld well with the light twang of Willie’s guitar and vocal. Mix in one of the smoothest voices in the business and Here We Go Again is worth another rotation.
1. Hallelujah I Love Her So
2. Come Rain or Come Shine
3. Unchain My Heart
4. Cryin’ Time
5. Losing Hand
6. Hit the Road Jack
7. I’m Moving On
9. Here We Go Again
10. Makin’ Woopie
11. Love You So Much (It Hurts)
12. What’d I Say
— Paul A. Pelon IV