Lily Meola owes Willie Nelson a hug. Not only did he invite her to play on his superb duets album "To All the Girls..." but he helped increase her profile through an opening spot on tour, which led to working with his son Micah as a producer on her debut, which also includes a song co-written by another Nelson son, Lukas.
Earning the praise of a country music legend would be bittersweet as there is undoubtedly a ton of pressure that comes with acclaim. Luckily for Meola, the quality of her music speaks for itself. With a gorgeous voice, she navigates the listener through jazzy covers ("Dream a Little Dream"), restrained ballads ("Sound of Your Memory" with Lukas Nelson) and duets with Kris Kristofferson on his classic "Me & Bobby McGee," always a bold choice in a post-Janis Joplin world. Her ability to utilize her voice as an instrument is amazing, as she weaves from sweet pop harmonies to sultry musings.
Willie himself shows up on three tracks, adding his familiar guitar flourishes to "L.A." and "Movie in my Mind," as well as joining Meola in a reprise of the duet "Will You Remember Mine," first released on Nelson's duet album.
Meola takes the retro hipster cool of Nikki Lane, blends it with the phenomenal vocal skills of Norah Jones and adds in the feisty pop Americana vibes of Lissie. This is an exceptionally well-done debut, especially considering that it is an independent release. Willie Nelson clearly has a great ear for talent. Meola is an absolute pleasure to listen to, a rare gem in an increasingly crowded music scene.