Willie Nelson, "Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin" (Sony Legacy)
Willie Nelson has drawn material from the great American songbook throughout his career. Notably, his five-million-selling 1978 album, "Stardust," featured Broadway standards, including George and Ira Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me."
Nelson first recorded old-school tunes as early as 1963. For the umpteenth time, he dips into that song bag by interpreting 11 Gershwin tunes — inspired by winning the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song last year. Laid back and beautifully arranged, Nelson's Gershwin tribute once again shows the enduring quality of "It Ain't Necessarily So," ''Love Is Here to Stay" and the title cut.
At age 82, Nelson no longer has the range that helped make him an American institution. But his outstanding phrasing and distinctive vocal tone puts across the subtle shades of emotion in "But Not for You" and the playful wit of "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," a duet with Cyndi Lauper. Nelson also offers a beautiful take on "Embraceable You" with duet partner Sheryl Crow.
Nelson won the Gershwin Prize for his songwriting; here, in the autumn of his career, he reminds us what a remarkable interpreter he can be of material written by others.