Saturday, September 08, 2007

Stella Hues

Credit where credit is due: Mr. Poncho has slowly turned the stone from the cave that held what I thought was the lifeless, talentless body of Ryan Adams. I'm no moon-eyed convert mind you, but I see the basic talent and attraction after giving Easy Tiger a few spins. But what finally convinced me was hearing the new Willie Nelson album, Songbird, and how it really pops compared to the avalanche of somewhat lackluster stuff he's kicked out in recent years. Turns out Ryan Adams produced it, hedging beautiful recording fidelity with a raw, garage-y backing band (the Cardinals) and a great song selection that pulls Willie off the typical standards, feathering in a Rick Rubinesque hipster-modernist aesthetic (like Parson's "$1,000 Wedding" and Cohen's "Hallelujah"). To see what I mean, listen to Willie doing the Grateful Dead's "Stella Blue" (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter), a magnificently aching rendition with a fantastic feedback-wheezing crud-mud guitar that adds minor-key watercolor washes where Willie might typically use more obvious acrylic lines. The guitar solo at minute 3:55 is transcendent.

Stella Blue - Willie Nelson

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