Graham Reid | | 1 min read
For many folks, Willie Nelson's wonderful album of standards Stardust, in the late Seventies, was a revelation . . . and unexpected.
By then he had been so long associatied with the Outlaw movement in modern country -- and been adopted as the dope-smoking Red Headed Stranger by post-hippie adults -- that him singing standards like the title track, Blue Skies and Moonlight in Vermont (usually associated with guys like Sinatra, Torme et al) seemed a weirdly retro, but enjoyable, step.
However longtime Willie fans knew his heart had always been in such material (gee, he wrote the classic Crazy which is now part of the Great American Songbook) and the evidence was available to anyone who trawled his back catalogue . . . which of course went way back to the early Sixties on songs like this. Which sounds like yet another contender for inclusion in the Songbook.
Listen to the way he swings behind the beat, leaves those delicious pauses and also inhabits the character.
In the four years prior to this gem he wrote over 100 songs (among them this exceptional song), and that catalogue awaits discovery.
Nite Life is just one step removed from Blues in the Night (Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen) and although it didn't damage the charts, you can imagine Sinatra doing a very slow version, or even Tom Waits in the Seventies in a bedraggled bar embracing its sentiment.
Damn, it even has a slight Western Swing feel about it, but it's also a blues song, a 2am ballad . . . and could even be spoken word "with instrumental backing" as they used to say on old 78s.
It's Willie, and it's a classic.
Albeit an unknown one.
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