Peaky Blinders, Slayer, and Willie Nelson: A Review of That’s Life, Willie Nelson’s latest album.

Disclaimer: I don’t know Willie Nelson’s discography that well.  I have heard his most popular songs, but I am not entirely familiar with the 4,000 others.  I certainly like his popular songs.  However, I don’t consider myself a true fan of the country music icon.  When someone asks me if I like Willie Nelson, my stock response is “yeah, he’s fine I guess.” It’s not because I don’t like him. I just don’t know his music. The last time I heard Willie Nelson was live in the fall of 1999 in Nacogdoches, TX. I had a million Bud Lights and don’t remember anything.

This review is done in real-time without any kind of context.  I don’t know if there is a theme or concept.  I have zero expectations.  All I know is that Willie Nelson sings “Whiskey River” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” I am simply going to comment on each track as I listen. 

Track 1

Based on the first 3 seconds, I have a feeling this entire song – maybe album – will require jazz hands and pre-Pearl Harbor dance moves. 

Tracks 2-3

Yep, jazz hands for the entire album, apparently.  LOTS of piano.  I mean LOTS of piano. This music puts me in one of the following scenarios:

  • I am sitting in an underground jazz bar in 1927.  Why did I pick 1927?  It just sounded funnier than 1970. Anyways, it is 1927 and I am surrounded by Flapper girls and Tommy Shelby look-a-likes in a Gin-soaked bar.
  • Maybe I am actually watching a bar scene from Swingers.  
  • Is this the background music to the original Mary Poppins?
  • Wait, I’ve got it –  I am sitting in the lounge of the “athletic club” in my grandparents’ retirement community.  

I am trying to power through track 2, but I am immediately overcome with defeat as I gaze at the title of the next song – “Cottage for Sale.”  If I was at Blockbuster Music in 1996 contemplating which cd to buy, my process of elimination would first get rid of the album with the song “Cottage for Sale.”  If Silverchair happened to put a song called “Cottage for Sale” on Frogstomp, I never would have heard tracks like “Shade.”  What a travesty that would have been.  Thank you, Daniel Johns, for choosing song titles like “Pure Massacre” over “Cottage for Sale.”  Can you imagine if Alice in Chains started off their iconic MTV Unplugged set with “Cottage for Sale”?

You get the point. 

I can confirm that “Cottage for Sale” sounds exactly how it reads.    

Tracks 4-5

We are getting some nasty tempo on track 4.  Willie really starting to pick up the pace.  Compared to the previous songs, this one has the vibe of Slayer’s “Angel of Death.”  The upright bass is killing it.  I mean, this bass player must have just listened to Jack Bruce’s brilliant grooves on “Crossroads.” 

Ohhhh, these are cover songs.  I didn’t realize it until he started singing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”  I appreciate the legendary status of this song, but I never liked “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in its original form.  Regardless of how much I might dislike the start of a song, I always give it until the first chorus. The musicianship is amazing.  The vocals seem great from Willie.  It is just boring.  You have to be in the right mood and the right place for this.  I am not putting it on my road trip playlist. 

Just made it through the first chorus. I’m out. Next song.

Track 6

I am starting to doom-scroll Twitter instead of paying attention to the music.  WHOA, WAIT!!!!  I hear a high hat and snare in this one!!!!!  There may have been drums in the previous songs, but I honestly don’t remember.  Pianos, strings, and jazz vocals have dominated my ears.

Track 7

At this point, I am waiting for Josh Groban or Tony Bennett, maybe Liza Mannelli, to come in for a cameo vocal. Must. Make. It. Through. 

Tracks 8 through the end

“Luck be a Lady.”  Really?! the worst possible track to come next.  This is turning into the soundtrack of a SNL episode featuring all of the historical “jazz lounge” characters.  Instead of “Star Wars,” Bill Murray comes back to sing “Cottage for Sale.”


Final Conclusions

Not my style of music.  As I mentioned before, the musicianship is outstanding.  I just can’t handle these types of songs.  I need to review one of Willie Nelson’s more prominent albums.  He is clearly a legend, and I don’t want this album to define my image of Willie Nelson. 

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