March 26, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Country icon’s cover album is a breath of fresh air

"Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin"

Willie Nelson

In Willie Nelson’s latest album, “Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin,” Nelson covers 11 songs written by brothers George and Ira Gershwin, who were responsible for creating many popular songs featured in American musicals in the early 20th century. Nelson, like the Gershwins, has had a long, successful career, and it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that “Summertime,” released Feb. 26, is quite pleasing to listen to.

“Summertime” treads familiar territory for the most part, but most songs are given a country twist that makes it seem like one is listening to them for the first time. “But Not for Me,” for example, sounds great arranged for acoustic guitar and harmonica, an arrangement not typical for the song. Other songs remain more jazzy and closer to the originals, such as “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off (feat. Cyndi Lauper),” which sound less country. However, even for the songs done in a more traditional way, Nelson makes each song his own by using his usual technique of singing slightly off the beat, sometimes ahead and sometimes behind.

The title track, “Summertime,” is one of the finest tunes on the album. Out of all the tracks, “Summertime,” has the most distinctly Willie Nelson–feel. His arrangement is incredibly different from most versions of the song, heavily featuring acoustic guitar, and his almost hypnotic voice adds a dimension to the song not seen before.

Nelson’s voice really shines in the slowerpaced songs with a more somber feel, like “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Embraceable You” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” Nelson’s voice doesn’t quite have the same energy as it did when he was younger, but it’s sure to please any fan of his, whether they are fans of country or just fans of the American songbook.

Silas White can be reached at or via Twitter: @swhite_5