Black Music Matters Festival

Willie Nelson

Naked Willie – 2009 (RCA Nashville/Legacy)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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Longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael has done for Willie Nelson what Paul McCartney did for The Beatles with the stripped down "Let It Be...Naked." With Nelson's blessing Raphael revisited Nelson's RCA catalog and remixed several tracks, removing layers of strings, horns and background singers to get closer to Nelson's original vision of the tunes.

On several tracks, including I'm A Memory, Following Me Around and Johnny One Time, Nelson's guitar is rescued from the mix. Similarly Nelson's vocals are made more prominent in Where Do You Stand? and Sunday Morning Coming Down. The Local Memory and I Let My Mind Wander benefit particularly from the removal of background singers.

The jazzy Bring Me Sunshine, on which the original use of horns and strings seems quite natural lost something in the stripping process.

As with McCartney's de-Spectorization of "Let It Be," some purists will object to tampering with the arrangements of original producers Chet Atkins, Felton Jarvis and Danny Davis. Many Nelson fans, however, will enjoy getting to hear these songs the way the artist conceived them.