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http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/88d01e06a47dd074daa909f54a81e6a1354b50e5.jpg Songbird

Willie Nelson

Songbird

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3 0
October 30, 2006

With the still-supple Willie Nelson down to a modest album-a-year pace at seventy-three, the release of the Ryan Adams-produced Songbird so close upon March's Cindy Walker-linked You Don't Know Me suggests that maybe the old man just wanted to put this record behind him. Adams loves his band the Cardinals very much, and Nelson is an affable fellow. But the Cardinals' indistinct country-rock hybrid muffles the material. Compare the opener, "Rainy Day Blues," to his sharp, showy Jonny Lang-aided version from 2000; check how much clearer the indomitable "We Don't Run" came through on Spirit in 1996. Nelson is almost always worth hearing. Be grateful he put his stamp on Gram Parsons' "$1000 Wedding" and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." But Christine McVie's title song doesn't fly, Nelson's new "Back to Earth" didn't start all that far up, and Adams' previously unrecorded contribution is one of way too many.

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    Song Stories

    “Bird on a Wire”

    Leonard Cohen | 1969

    While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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