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To Willie – 2009 (Dead Oceans)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Phosphorescent

The title of this salute from Phosphorescent - Matthew Houck's one-man indie folk act out of Brooklyn - to Willie Nelson refers to Nelson's 1977 album "To Lefty From Willie." While Nelson focused on Lefty Frizzell's better known songs, Houck targets relatively obscure songs from the Nelson catalog.

An effective trio of tunes comes from Nelson's Phases And Stages, with renditions of Walkin', Pick Up The Tempo and especially It's Not Supposed To Be That Way featuring nice harmonies from Angel Deradoorian. Other highlights are the Nelson compositions The Party's Over, Permanently Lonely and Too Sick To Pray, one of Houck's more countrified sounding efforts.

Houck also covers some songs not written by but recorded by Nelson, with Merle Haggard's Reasons To Quit, Hank Cochran's Can I Sleep In Your Arms and Gary P. Nunn's The Last Thing I Needed To Know (First Thing This Morning).

Despite the absence of any of Nelson's signature tunes, Houck delivers a sincere tribute to the musical legend.