This collection is a follow-up to Willie Nelson’s 2014 collaboration his sister Bobbie, December Day: Willie’s Stash, Volume 1. This time around Willie is teamed up with his two youngest sons, Micah and Lukas, who join him on eleven country classics and one contemporary number that leans heavily on the Hank Williams catalog.
Material-wise, there are no real surprises here. As always when Willie Nelson records cover material, the unknown is always how much Willie will deviate from the originals. In the case of this album, the answer is not much. The seven Williams songs are handled reverently. The two younger Nelsons, despite their youth, show great enthusiasm for the material and one gets the distinct impression that they have great respect and passion for, it and that these are not just a bunch of old songs that Dad forced them to record. The three Nelsons harmonize well together, as family groups typically do, and there are some fantastic steel guitar solos courtesy of Mike Johnson. Rarely have these old chestnuts sounded so energetic.
The one thing that did surprise me is how good Willie’s voice sounds throughout the album, with little signs of the wear-and-tear that has been apparent on some of his recent work. From what I can gather, these recordings were made in 2011 and 2012, so that partially explains it. However, his voice is noticeably stronger than it was on 2010’s Country Music collection for Rounder. Whatever the reason, it’s good to hear Willie in such good vocal form.
This album could have been titled The Nelsons Sing Hank, since some of country music’s famous Hanks wrote the marjority of the album’s songs. In addition to the seven Williams numbers (“Move It On Over”, “Mind Your Own Business”, “ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” , “Cold Cold Heart”, “Mansion on the Hill”, and “Why Don’t You Love Me”), the album contains a remake of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On”, Hank Locklin’s “Send Me The Pillow You Dream On”, and Hank Cochran’s “Can I Sleep In Your Arms”, which is my favorite song on the album. Set to the melody of “Red River Valley”, it was a hit in 1973 for Cochran’s then-wife Jeannie Seely, and it was later recorded by Willie for his Red Headed Stranger album in 1975.
The album is rounded out by a cover of Willie’s original composition “Healing Hands of Time” and a modern-folk tune “My Tears Fall” written by singer/songwriter Alyssa Miller. This contemporary number fits in surprisingly wel l with these old classics and doesn’t sound out of place at all next to them.
Buddy Cannon’s production is tastefully understated and for the most part the album has a sitting around the living room jam-session type feel to it. I cannot find any fault with it, other than to say I wish it had been released as a double album. I highly recommend it without reservation.