Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#602 in the Series) is The Little Willies, For the Good Times (Milking Bull)
Those of you that have been Norah Jonesing for an encore to The Little Willies and their eponymous album that featured fun eclectic versions of classic country songs like “ I Gotta Get Drunk” and “Nightlife” alongside the masterpiece “Streets of Baltimore”, and a rousing original song that sings the praises of Lou Reed called, appropriately enough, “Lou Reed”, need wait no more.
This time around For The Good Times, the second release for the band that consists of Lee Alexander on bass, Jim Campilongo and Richard Julian on guitar, Dan Reiser on drums, and the incomparable Norah Jones lending honkytonk piano and sultry vocals to the proceedings, provides another fine canon of country standards that include gems by Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash.
The band first formed in 2003 as a somewhat loose group of friends and musicians that got together for a one-night gig that turned out to be too much fun with too much talent flowing to allow the spigot that released their individual classic country music passions to be turned off after only one night.
The arrangements on this finely produced energetic effort hold fairly close to the original with enough of subtle nuances, slight tempo changes, and signature Norah Jones vocalizing to allow the songs to stand on their own merits. While Jones does a fine job recreating the angst and generally pissed off attitude that Dolly Parton brings to the classic version of “Jolene”, she comes a bit short of creating the same genuine “I’m going open up a can of whoop-ass” threatening atmosphere that Loretta Lynn does on the original “Fist City”. With Loretta you knew you were in store for one hell of a cat fight. Here you are not so sure.
“For the Good Times” is one the best songs ever transcribed to papyrus and The Willies do the Kris Kristofferson penned tune exquisite justice. The musical gods are shining upon us that Kris himself was not asked to add vocal accompaniment on this version. For this, the album and the world is a better place.
“If You’ve Got The Money I’ve Got the Time” is a rollicking number that purely demonstrates the fun that this band is having playing these songs. If the band were a Peanuts cartoon they would be Snoopy running through a field of flowers with his tongue hanging out and his ears flapping in the breeze with a “nothing could be better” look on his little beagle face.
A personal favorite is the Johnny Cash song “Wide Open Road” where Norah shares vocal duties on this driving song classic.
If I had to choose between the two albums by this cowboy cabaret clan I would probably choose the first one probably more for the original songs that are included that seem to give it added texture. That is not to say that “For the Good Times” is not a fine effort because it certainly is.
It is like having two children. The first one always is just a wee bit more special even though you love them both equally…… Almost.
- “I Worship You” (Ralph Stanley)
- “Remember Me” (Scotty Wiseman)
- “Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves” (Cal Martin)
- “Lovesick Blues” (Cliff Friend, Irving Mills)
- “Tommy Rockwood” (Jim Campilongo)
- “Fist City” (Loretta Lynn)
- “Permanently Lonely” (Willie Nelson)
- “Foul Owl On The Prowl” (Quincy Jones, Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman)
- “Wide Open Road” (Johnny Cash)
- “For the Good Times” (Kris Kristofferson)
- “If You’ve Got The Money I’ve Got The Time” (Lefty Frizzell, Jim Beck)
- “Jolene” (Dolly Parton)
- Lee Alexander – Bass, Vocals
- Jim Campilongo – Guitar, Vocals
- Norah Jones – Piano, Vocals
- Richard Julian – Guitar, Vocals
- Dan Rieser – Drums, Vocals
A nice performance by The Little Willies on The Late Show with David Letterman