Songbird (2006)
by Willie Nelson
Lost Highway - B0006939-01 - 31/10/2006

Songbird is an album by Willie Nelson released by Lost Highway Records on October 31, 2006. It was produced by contemporary country rock musician Ryan Adams. Adams, along with his band The Cardinals, performed on the album’s eleven tracks. It peaked at #87 on the Billboard 200 on November 18, 2006.

Only two brand new compositions, Nelson’s “Back to Earth” and Adams’ “Blue Hotel,” appear onSongbird. “Rainy Day Blues,” "We Don’t Run,” and "Sad Songs and Waltzes" are original Nelson tunes, but they were released on earlier records.

Most of the songs from the album are cover tunes with new interpretations. The credit for covering these songs goes to Adams, who "...felt confident with all the selections." In the same interview, Nelson points out that he was tentative about recording songs that had already been recorded as good as these were. He summed up the album by stating, 'It'll always be the Ryan Adams project, as far as I'm concerned.'

[from Wikipedia]


1Rainy Day Blues (written by Willie Nelson)5:32
2Songbird (written by Christine McVie)2:40
3Blue Hotel (written by Ryan Adams)3:30
4Back To Earth (written by Willie Nelson)2:59
5Stella Blue (written by Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter)6:23
6Hallelujah (by Leonard Cohen) (written by Leonard Cohen)4:53
7$1000 Wedding (written by Gram Parsons)3:05
8We Don't Run (written by Willie Nelson)4:19
9Yours Love (written by Harlan Howard)3:03
10Sad Songs And Waltzes (written by Willie Nelson)3:17
11Amazing Grace (written by Trad.)4:49


Performance statistics

TitleTimes playedDebutLast played
Rainy Day BluesNever played live
SongbirdNever played live
Blue Hotel1122006-04-232023-08-04
Back To EarthNever played live
Stella Blue232005-07-132006-12-05
Hallelujah (by Leonard Cohen)Never played live
$1000 WeddingNever played live
We Don't RunNever played live
Yours LoveNever played live
Sad Songs And WaltzesNever played live
Amazing GraceNever played live




Willie Nelson on the album in American Songwriter:

How did you come to work with Ryan Adams for Songbird?
It was Luke Lewis from Lost Highway Records that suggested we get together and do something, and I respect Luke a lot. I wasn’t that familiar with Ryan, to be honest with you. I saw him a time or two, but I figured that he was coming from one [musical] place, I was coming from another, and we could kind of meet in the middle and work it out-and it really seemed like we did. His sound was, as everybody knows, a little different from what mine is, but we managed to come together well.

What was Adams like to work with? He has a reputation for being kind of out there.
Well, we’re both kind of out there [laughs], so we kind of met on a different altitude somewhere. I love him to death. I think he’s a great artist. Naturally, he’s a little weird; we all gotta be a little weird to be in this kind of business anyway, but his weirdness is associated with a lot of ingenious things that he’s doing.

The CD has a great cross-section of songs, old and new, from different periods of your career. The opener, “Rainy Day Blues,” goes back to your early days doesn’t it?
All the way back to the ‘50s, when I was living in Houston…and the first time I recorded “Night Life.” I’ve always liked the song. I sing it occasionally, and the audience likes it. It’s a good blues song, and we like to include a couple of blues songs at least on our show. I do “Milk Cow Blues;” that’s another old standard that I just love to do, and “Rainy Day Blues” kind of falls in there.

 “Songbird,” the disc’s first single, is one of its most beautiful moments.
Thank you. I really love the arrangement on it. Fleetwood Mac had a great record on that. I didn’t know how my version of it would sound, but Ryan’s band, The Cardinals, are really good. These guys could play anything. We were doing [Harlan Howard’s] “Yours Love,” and I don’t think the steel player had heard it before, so I said, “Well, just play, ‘Waltz Across Texas’…it’ll work fine [laughs].” So when you hear that song, if you hear “Waltz Across Texas,” that’s how I got there.

Regarding his role of producer for the album, Ryan Adams states that he:

learned a lot of life lessons mostly. I mean, [Willie Nelson] works very quickly and it was very spare. We didn’t see him a lot, because the sessions were over a couple of different months. And also when it came up that it was something we were going to do, I was adamant that if The Cardinals were going to back him up, I would have to produce so we wouldn’t have to worry about someone interfering with our sound. So they agreed to let it go down the way it went down in the studio, and I put some limits on what was going to happen in order to keep the integrity of the recording. It reminded me kind of how Jackand Meg White work, the way that their limits make them seem stronger and more able to be resourceful and economical. In thinking about that, I wanted everyone to set up in the room around Willie, with only [drummer] Brad [Pemberton] wearing headphones, and everyone using ratty old amps so that the main thing everyone heard was Willie’s voice and guitar. It was cool because it made everyone listen really hard, and I think it enabled Willie to throw the band a little more, and suck them in. It turned into a real healthy struggle. But other than that we didn’t see a lot of him because I think he was pressed for time, and maybe recording in New York was a little overwhelming for him. It was just a different process. I think he’s used to coming in with the track already done and just singing over it."