Naked Willie in Stores Today

by Mario Tarradell

Even without trying, Willie Nelson is a most prolific recording artist. Naked Willie is his second CD of 2009, and the year is less than three months old. It follows last month’s unveiling of Willie & the Wheel, a superspirited collection of vintage Western swing corkers in collaboration with the Texas band Asleep at the Wheel.

Naked Willie, as the title implies, is a stripped-down retooling of pre-Outlaw movement Nelson gems recorded between 1966 and 1970 with lush strings and multilayered background vocals. Mickey Raphael, Nelson’s longtime harmonica player, got his employer’s blessing to peel away excesses and present the songs in Nelson’s now-signature unadorned style.

The results are mournful, lovely even. The purity of Nelson’s voice, which was more melodic then, is particularly penetrating. “Happiness Lives Next Door” and “Jimmy’s Road” could bring you to tears. “The Party’s Over” and an early take on pal Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” sound extra-potent thanks to their sonic spaciousness.

For die-hard Willie fans, this collection is a must. In stores today

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