After the success of Two Men With the Blues (Blue Note, 2008), Here We Go Again: Celebrating the Genius of Ray Charles is a welcome inevitability. The addition of the like-minded Norah Jones to the mix is just gravy, properly augmenting a Ray Charles tribute.
With the possible exception of Van Morrison, only Willie Nelson exists as the logical heir to Charles' mantle. Like Charles, Nelson's aptitude has been promiscuous, gobbling up and transforming genres previously not associated with him. Nelson's Stardust (Columbia, 1978) became a classic crossover recording, combining the organic features of country music with the Great American songbook. Now Nelson faces head on one of the most substantial American musical artists.
With vocal duet/sparring partner Jones, Nelson arranges the Charles book into a love affair suite. Such clever programing is a rare commodity today. Hot, cool and gone are the phases marked by "Hallelujah," "I Love You So Much It Hurts," "Cryin' Time" and "Hit The Road Jack." Jones proves Nelson's vocal equal on "Come Rain Or Come Shine" and "Here We Go Again" (the song also dueted with Charles on Genius Loves Company) and delivers a slippery "Makin' Whoopie."
The instrumental side of things is held firmly down by Wynton Marsalis and Mickey Raphael, who both turn in spirited solos throughout the recording. Here We Go Again could be accused of cashing in, but that would not be fair considering the superb musicianship and thought that went into its programming.
Track Listing: Hallelujah; Come Rain or Come Shine; Unchain My Heart; Cryin' Time;
Loosing Hand; Hit The Road Jack; Movin' On; Busted; Here We Go Again;
Making Whoopie; I Love You So Much It Hurts.
Personnel: Willie Nelson: vocals, guitar; Wynton Marsalis: trumpet; Norah Jones:
piano, vocals; Mickey Raphael: harmonica; Walter Blanding: tenor
saxophone; Dan Nimmer: piano; Carlos Henriquez: bass; Ali Jackson Jr:
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