BY JOHN B. MOORE
Willie Nelson, the Patron Saint of “Screw it, I’ll do it my own way, then,” is more prolific in his 80s than just about any other musician half his age (Ryan Adams, being the possible only exception). December Days, marks his second release this year and seventh since 2010. And much like the weather in New England, if you don’t like, just stick around. A change is coming along any minute now.
December Days is a duet of sorts with his older sister– and bandmate – Bobbie joining along on piano and because of that, the two instruments, Willie on his nylon-stringed acoustic and Bobbie on the keys, the music plays a much more prominent role than the lyrics on this outing. The 18 songs here are a collection of old covers (including Irving Berlin’s “Alexander Ragtime Band,” which opens the record and Al Jolson’s ‘Anniversary Song”) as well as a number of Nelson-penned classics like “Who Will Buy My Memories” and “Sad Songs and Waltzes.” The common thread being that all of these songs are longtime favorites of the Nelson siblings.
The arrangements are laid back, subtle and beautiful, a combination that is hard to come up with unless you spend decades playing alongside each other. Several members of their longtime band, including Mickey Raphael, Paul English and Bee Spears, join the Nelson from song to song, but this is clearly an album that puts the siblings up front. Gone are the raucous “Whiskey River”-style jams, but in its place are an albums worth of lazy afternoon porch songs that you can’t help but love.
DOWNLOAD: “Permanently Lonely,” “Walkin’” and “Sad Songs and Waltzes”