The Little Willies
November 28, 2011, 10:27 am
I love playing country music," says Norah Jones. "More than any other genre, it makes me feel at home."
THE LITTLE WILLIES
Just take a look at this track listing. (I mean, Lefty Frizzell! WOW!)
1. I Worship You (Ralph Stanley)
2. Remember Me (Scott Wiseman)
3. Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves (Cal Martin)
4. Lovesick Blues (Cliff Friend/Irving Mills)
5. Tommy Rockwood (Jim Campilongo)
6. Fist City (Loretta Lynn)
7. Permanently Lonely (Willie Nelson)
8. Foul Owl On The Prowl (Quincy Jones/Alan Bergman/Marilyn Bergman)
9. Wide Open Road (Johnny Cash)
10. For The Good Times (Kris Kristofferson)
11. If You've Got The Money I've Got The Time (Lefty Frizzell/Jim Beck)
12. Jolene (Dolly Parton)FOR THE GOOD TIMES
...Over the past 10 years, The Little Willies, a group of friends and like-minded souls—Lee Alexander (bass), Jim Campilongo (guitar), Norah Jones (piano, vocals), Richard Julian (guitar, vocals), and Dan Rieser (drums)—have periodically gathered to make music for fun, playing their favorite country tunes and conjuring that down-home spirit.
With their second album, For the Good Times, The Little Willies take on songs by such masters as Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton. The results demonstrate the joy they take, and commitment they make, to a project that was first born for purely practical reasons.
In 2003, The Little Willies line-up solidified as an excuse for the five friends to spend a night playing music together at the Living Room on New York’s Lower East Side. The show proved to be too much fun for both the musicians and audience for it to remain a one-off. Over the next couple years, The Little Willies continued to play at the Living Room whenever all five members were in town.
The Willies all drifted back into their regular careers, but always assumed they would keep the band going. Jones says that work on For The Good Times actually began a full three years ago but the album remained unfinished. "It’s hard when everybody isn’t in town and we're itching to play,” she says. “But then in March, Jim sent an email, like 'OK, people, I miss you, let’s just play.'"
Material for the new album was taken from the Willies' live repertoire, and by passing around ideas drawn from disparate sources. The selections include more surprising choices, like the trucker classic "Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves" and "Foul Owl on the Prowl," from the soundtrack to In the Heat of the Night. Julian says that this batch of songs was actually more thought out than the first record. "Those songs were things we had grown up with, listening to our moms play these records," he says. "A song like 'Permanently Lonely' is something I came to as an adult, and 'Foul Owl' was something Norah’s mother suggested—though our version is pretty far away from the original."
Alongside the more obscure songs, though, For the Good Times also includes some of the best-known songs in the history of country music, like Parton's "Jolene" and the title track, written by Kristofferson and made famous by such singers as Ray Price and Al Green. "We try to pick things more off the beaten path," says Julian, "but we find ourselves hitting a few of those big ones, too. Something like 'Lovesick Blues' is just an old barroom tune, so it seemed like a natural fit to jazz it up a bit, give it more of a parlor feel."
Jones maintains that she's not intimidated by tackling these standards, despite the iconic renditions that are so familiar to all. "We've been playing them since the beginning, and people love it," she says. "I sure love to sing 'Jolene,' and people enjoy it when we do it. It’s OK that it’s familiar—this is an album of covers and it’s nice to have a few that people really know and love. It doesn’t bother me as long as it’s natural."...
..Jones points out that For the Good Times represents the culmination of a set of musical and personal relationships that go back a long time. Read more HERE.