Little Willies

Little Willies

5.0 5
by The Little Willies
     
 

A bunch of musician friends -- most with their own careers going -- get together to casually throw some tunes around. It goes so well they cut an album of their good time music-making. You've heard the story before -- it's practically become an indie-pop myth by now -- but with the Little Willies it's a different tale altogether. For not every ad hoc band features… See more details below

Overview

A bunch of musician friends -- most with their own careers going -- get together to casually throw some tunes around. It goes so well they cut an album of their good time music-making. You've heard the story before -- it's practically become an indie-pop myth by now -- but with the Little Willies it's a different tale altogether. For not every ad hoc band features Norah Jones in its ranks. With old buddies like Jim Campilongo on guitar, and fellow singer-songwriter Richard Julian, Jones is in comfortable company, and it tells. Vocalists Jones and Julian dig into country classics (Willie Nelson's "Night Life," Hank Williams's "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," and "Tennessee Stud" among them), some contemporary country gems (Townes Van Zandt's "No Place to Fall," Kris Kristofferson's "Best Of All Possible Worlds"), an Elvis specialty ("Love Me") and a few fine originals including "Lou Reed," a very funny "tribute" co-written by Jones. The mood throughout is one of relaxed focus; this crew is out for a good time, but getting sloppy just isn't in the picture. Jones, in fact, sounds as soulful and affecting as she does on her hit albums, while Julian will be a pleasant discovery for many (as will Campilongo's exceptional playing). Despite their informal nature and modest moniker, this is a band that makes a big impression.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The Little Willies could be called a supergroup if they had more than one star in their lineup. Instead, the quintet is a group of five New York musicians -- highlighted by pianist/vocalist Norah Jones, but also featuring her regular bassist Lee Alexander, guitarist/vocalist Richard Julian, guitarist Jim Campilongo, and drummer Dan Rieser -- who originally came together to play a one-shot gig in 2003 at the Living Room, and soon came to play the venue regularly, which eventually led to an eponymous album released in March of 2006. It's a casual, appealing collection of country covers, spiked with four originals from various members of the band. It's so relaxed and low-key that it could be argued that The Little Willies wouldn't garner much attention if it weren't for that one star in its midst, Norah Jones, who became a superstar in part because her 2002 debut, Come Away with Me, recalled the mellow, burnished vibe of classic singer/songwriter albums from the '70s. A big part of that sound was built on country-rock and both of Jones' albums had an undercurrent of country, so the honky tonk and Western swing stylings of the Little Willies aren't a big stretch for her. In fact, their album has an intimate, relaxed feel reminiscent of the nightclub aura of Come Away with Me, but that shouldn't suggest that Jones is the star here. If anything, the Little Willies are led by Richard Julian, an N.Y.C.-based singer/songwriter who has released four albums since 1997. He not only takes lead vocals on just as many songs as Jones, but he has a hand in three of the four originals (the Jones-sung "It's Not You It's Me," "Easy as the Rain," and "Lou Reed"; the other, "Roll On," was written by Alexander, though it's also sung by Jones), all of which fit well among such standards as "Roly Poly," "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," "Streets of Baltimore," "Tennessee Stud," and "Night Life." But to suggest that there is a leader to the Little Willies kind of misses the point -- this is a group that got together for a good time, and accordingly there's very little ego to be heard in the music itself. But where some jam sessions can veer toward the indulgent and insular, this is warm and friendly, unassuming and unpretentious, even when it gets a little jokey at the end with "Lou Reed." And while the Little Willies don't mess around with the arrangements of these familiar tunes at all -- "Roly Poly" begins just like Bob Wills' original, Elvis' "Love Me" gets backing vocals patterned after the Jordanaires (and the vocalists are punningly called the Ordinaires on the back cover) -- it doesn't matter, because the band is not only good, but there's a palpable sense of enjoyment in their performances that comes through even though the music is decidedly low-key. Yet that relaxed nature is the very thing that makes The Little Willies a gentle surprise -- maybe this isn't a major record, but it's thoroughly likeable record that doesn't lose its charm on repeated plays.
New York Times
It's not the third Norah Jones album -- that's still in the offing -- but it's close. ...It is rehearsed, flowing, expertly produced.

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Product Details

Release Date:
03/07/2006
Label:
Blue Note Records
UPC:
0094635067125
catalogNumber:
50671
Rank:
66397

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