Black Music Matters Festival

Willie Nelson

You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker – 2006 (Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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Willie Nelson's prolific streak of releases on Lost Highway (including live and studio LPs each of the past three years) continues with this collection of Cindy Walker covers. Walker's songs are best known as hits rendered by a who's-who of swing, honky-tonk, country and pop stars that includes Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce, Merle Haggard, Eddy Arnold and Ray Charles.

The Texas soul of Walker's songs fit Nelson to a tee, and as a legendary songsmith in his own right, his devotion to Walker's work is both a compliment and an acknowledgement of these songs' fundamental role in his own artistic development.

One time Texas Playboy fiddler Johnny Gimble leads a stellar swing combo that includes the steel of Buddy Emmons and background harmonies of The Jordanaires. Nelson's familiarity with the material occasionally turns his vocals too casual, but the highlights are outstanding, including a jazzy rendition of "Don't Be Ashamed of Your Age," a forlorn, heartbroken reading of "Not That I Care," a wearily styled "Warm Red Wine," and a warm, Western-themed take on "Dusty Skies."

Nelson's a skilled interpreter, and backed by a sympathetically swinging combo, this is a wonderful tip-of-the-cowboy-hat to Walker's songwriting.