Frank Sinatra is one of those artists who, when you cover his songs, you have to go about it in a completely individualistic manner. And by that I mean you can’t try to match The Chairman Of The Board in any way shape or form. His mastery of song, performance, and vocal stylings is unparalleled and unreachable. To try to approach him sonically, as countless artists have tried to do over the years, is to severely risk sounding like a cheap imitation, or worse yet, a novelty act. It is an invitation to your own musical disaster and destruction. The only legitimate shot you have at creating anything musically significant when covering his songs is to take them, filter them through your own musicality and individuality, and then boldly create your own versions of them.
Much like he did on 2018’s My Way, his first Sinatra tribute album, on This Life his latest album and Sinatra tribute, fellow American music legend Willie Nelson does just that.
On the record, Nelson, in his own indomitable and dazzling style, takes the twelve songs of Sinatra that he chose to cover this time around, and with his warmly evocative voice and superlative interpretative skills makes them “Wille Nelson” songs.
Particular highlights for me on this stellar collection are Nelson’s versions of the wryly introspective titular track, the quietly searing “Cottage For Sale,” the slyly seductive “Luck Be A Lady,” the sardonically observant “Learnin’ The Blues,” and the spiritually tough “Lonesome Road.”
At this stage in his artistic career, some eight decades in, Willie Nelson relentlessly continues to defy the expectations and the limitations of this life with his continued and incredible ability to make great records like this one. Following on the heels of last year’s brilliant The First Rose Of Spring, Nelson at 87, continues to inspire and to show all of us how far a sheer belief in your talent and abilities will take you.
This Life (Legacy Records) by Willie Nelson was produced by Buddy Cannon and Matt Rollings and is now available on his website.