Willie Nelson

Remember Me Vol. 1 – 2011 (R&J)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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Willie Nelson is acclaimed as both a songwriter and a guitar player, but he has also rightfully earned a stellar reputation as an interpreter of classic songs. On "Remember Me Vol. 1," Nelson takes another successful stab at covering standards, this time from the rich annals of country music history.

There's no focus on a particular time period here, rather the 14 songs cover the vast musical territory between Tex Williams' Smoke That Cigarette from 1947, all the way through to Vern Gosdin's 1989 hit, That Just About Does It. In between, Willie touches on some of country's biggest hits from artists like Porter Wagoner, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb and Merle Haggard.

Nelson's distinctive and warm voice, which is both comforting and comfortable, breezes effortlessly through each song. Nelson doesn't try to reinvent these songs, he just adds his own stylistic flair to clean and straightforward arrangements. Some of the slower songs like Wagoner's Satisfied Mind, Webb Pierce's Slowly and Ray Price's Release Me do the best job of showcasing the emotional depth of Nelson's vocal performance and recall his work on the amazing 1978 album "Stardust."

The musicians, all top-notch Nashville studio players, are also memorable throughout. Brent Mason (electric guitar), John Hobbs (piano/keyboards) and Aubrey Haynie (fiddle/mandolin) all make notable contributions on songs like Smoke That Cigarette, Haggard's Ramblin' Fever and Fred Rose's Roly Poly, a single that reached the third spot on the country charts for Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys in 1946.