Aug. 25, 2009 — With Tuesday's release of his American Classic album, Willie Nelson is dipping back into a well he's drawn from several times in his career — most notably with the 1978 project Stardust.
Like that album, and several others Willie's done through the years, the CD revisits numerous standards from the traditional-pop era, including the Tony Bennett chestnut "Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)," Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and the Hoagy Carmichael composition "The Nearness Of You."
Pulling from the Tin Pan Alley era certainly worked with Stardust. The album yielded hits with "Georgia On My Mind," "All Of Me," "Blue Skies" and "September Song," and it became the first release ever to occupy a slot on the Billboard country albums chart for more than a decade. Executives at the country division of his label at the time were unimpressed with the idea, but Willie was20the company's best-selling act at the time, so he got a lot of leeway.
"When I did Stardust, a lot of people said, 'You're crazy, those are old songs. People won't buy them,'" Willie told the Canwest News Service. "But I had enough faith in the songs and the music itself to know that it didn't matter if they were old or new. People don't forget good songs. If it was a hit at one time, people will want to hear it again later."
And that's part of the reason that American Classic closes with a new version of one of Willie's own hits, "Always On My Mind." Originally, he had planned to have Barbra Streisand join him on the song, he told The Los Angeles Times, but that never quite materialized.
Two duets did make the Classic album: He sings "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Norah Jones and shares vocals with Diana Krall on "If I Had You," a song Rudy Vallee popularized during the Roaring '20s.
Coinciding with the release, Willie is performing in Hawaii Tuesday at Charley's Restaurant & Saloon, a tiny Maui location where he occasionally delivers "secret" shows with special guests. Joining him this time around is the indie rock act Band Of Horses.