The Little Willies

This debut album is by a group of musical "ringers" having a grand ole time playing country tunes. Fronted by Norah Jones and fellow New York singer/songwriter Richard Julian, The Little Willies fuse rock-solid musicianship with a whole lot of passion for the four originals and nine covers which comprise the album.

It was in 2003 that these five friends booked a show at a New York club merely as an excuse to play music together for an evening. Although they were all from different parts of the country--from California, Massachusetts, Texas, and Delaware--the performers all had a grounding in and affection for the music of Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and other classic country artists.

And so they do a laudable job on the Townes Van Zandt track "No Place to Fall," a loping version of Hank Williams' "I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive" and a whimsical jazzy take on Willie Nelson's "I Gotta Get Drunk." Also represented on the band's tracklisting are tunes by Kristofferson, songwriters Leiber & Stoller, and one popularized by (although not written by) Gram Parsons.

Norah Jones is not only the most well-known name in The Little Willies, but she's also the group's musical centerpiece as well. In their version of the standard "Tennessee Stud," for example, the music revolves around the lead guitar line interlocking with Jones' piano, while Richard Julian's vocal is set off beautifully by Jones' harmony.

The group's smattering of originals range from the low-key ballad "Easy As the Rain" to the bizarrely humorous "Lou Reed," a song about seeing the New York rock 'n' roll icon out in the countryside cow-tipping.

The Little Willies provides a for an entertaining listening experience. Although there's certainly a novelty-ish element to this album, the passion that the performers feel for the material is genuine and infectious.

Mike Sauter, WYEP Music Director