Naked Willie (RCA / Legacy)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., April 17, 2009
Willie NelsonNaked Willie (RCA/Legacy)
With the near-constant stream of Willie Nelson releases, it's difficult to justify Naked Willie, a pet experiment by the man's harmonica virtuoso Mickey Raphael, who stripped away the countrypolitan polish from Nelson's 1960s RCA output. Unfortunately, though perhaps admirable in theory, the revisionism is as unaffecting as it is unnecessary. The songs still feel intended for a more lush production style, so tracks such as "The Party's Over," "Layin' My Burdens Down," and roaring "Sunday Morning Coming Down" actually seem incongruous with the somewhat peeled back arrangements. The only exceptions among the 17 tracks are the haunted "Jimmy's Road" and stunningly poignant "What Can You Do to Me Now?" – both of which benefit from Nelson's vocals pushed to the fore. While the strings and saccharine backup vocals aren't missed on the new versions, the project defers to where its subject eventually went at the expense of how he got there.