The Little Willies: Richard Julian (vocals, guitar); Norah Jones (vocals, piano); Jim Campilongo (electric guitar); Lee Alexander (bass instrument); Dan Rieser (drums).
Additional personnel: Jon Dryden (accordion, organ).
Recording information: The Magic Shop, New York, New York (2005).
Norah Jones's first significant project after 2004's FEELS LIKE HOME, the Little Willies' self-titled debut finds the superstar vocalist/pianist playing band member and running through a laid-back set of country songs with other New York City-based musicians, including singer-songwriter Richard Julian, guitarist Jim Campilongo, bassist Lee Alexander, and drummer Dan Rieser. (The latter two are Jones's frequent collaborators.)
The group is clearly having fun on this lighthearted outing, offering up a few originals (the tribute tune "Lou Reed") and plenty of twangy covers, including Townes Van Zandt's "No Place to Fall" and a breezy, bluesy rendition of "Night Life," one of Willie Nelson's signature songs. (Nelson apparently provided inspiration for the ensemble's tongue-in-cheek name.) While Jones has a strong presence on the record (handling country songs with the same assuredness and nuance of her more jazzy numbers), Julian is equally prominent, contributing vocals that recall the amiable delivery of Lyle Lovett. For fans of Jones, Julian, and the loose groove of musicians and songwriters indulging themselves a bit, THE LITTLE WILLIES is sure to deliver.
What the critics say...
Rolling Stone (pp.64-65) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[T]heir debut has the same easy charm and command of pre-rock pop as Jones' albums..."
Uncut (p.110) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "From start to finish, it's an anti-diva joy....Jones proves she has more in common with Raitt and Muldaur than Dido and Melua."
Down Beat (p.84) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "The musicianship is tight, but also exudes freshness that dispels any notion that these New Yorkers are merely paying homage."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.104) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[M]ostly loose and warm....Julian's Van Zandt cover is excellent and Jones' torch song take on Nelson's 'Nightlife' beguiling."