The Little Willies aren't just a side project for
country-jazz-pop chanteuse Norah Jones and her boyfriend/collaborator Lee
Alexander with a bunch of New York muso buddies like Richard Julian, Jim
Campilongo and Dan Reiser. They are a legitimate band, a group of
separate and equal pub performers who have been gigging at the Living Room
in NYC for a few years, doing loose bar band rock versions of some of their
favorite old school country. The fact that one of the band members has
sold about 10 million CDs is not a consideration at all.
That said, Jones is the ace in the hole for this album.
Her love of country (a little overshadowed in her megasmash debut album
Come Away With Me but on ample display on the followup Feels Like
Home) is front and center here as classics by Kris Kristofferson, Willie
Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Tompall Glaser and some fun originals are given
loose workouts. She generously shares vocals with Julian, who is
perfectly good here but slightly overshadowed by his talented partner.
Jones' vocals on Alexander's "Roll On" are sweet
and soothing -- oddly she sounds sort of like a more laid back version of Maria McKee
on this superlative song. She smolders through a cover of Nelson's
"Nightlife" and soars on the old school country lament of Leiber and Stoller's
Honestly, The Little Willies will not sell a
fraction of the copies that Come Away With Me did, but it's nice that
Norah and her friends don't give a damn about that. They're willing to
just have fun and that spirit is infectious.