Black Music Matters Festival

Willie Nelson

Night and Day – 1999 (Pedernales/FreeFall)

Reviewed by Tom Netherland

Willie Nelson's singular singing style long ago propelled him to legendary status. But what may have escaped all but his most intense fans was his equally unique guitar playing. That may change with the Texan's first instrumental album. Entirely acoustic and consisting of mostly jazz and pop standards, the 10 soothing cuts feature Nelson's fret work front and center.

His scarred, hole-worn Martin classical guitar is used exclusively. Django Reinhardt's "Nuages" and Walter Bullock and Jules Styne's "Vous et Moi" start the album on deeply spiritual notes. Swathed in subtlety, Nelson's guitar weaves through the intricate notes and comes out sounding like some gypsy romance is afoot. Toe-tapping trips through "Sweet Georgia Brown" and Cole Porter's "Night And Day" make for fine driving music. Or contemplative music. Good, honest music for those lazy days.

Nelson's richly woven "Bandera" along with "September In The Rain" and Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose" point to Nelson's masterful guitar playing skills while exposing a part of his soul previously unseen.

Jazz fans, country doesn't get much better, with or without words.