CINDY WALKER Willie Nelson
I once interviewed
the venerable country songwriter Harlan Howard. When I asked him who his favorite
songwriter was, Harlan didn't hesitate for a moment. "Cindy Walker," he said.
"She's the greatest country songwriter I've ever heard."
must agree. For his latest album, he's recorded a baker's dozen of Walker's
finest, and he's done it old school, with producer Fred Foster at the controls
and instrumental backing that sounds like a classic early '60s album (complete
with Floyd Cramer piano licks and Jordanaire-style background vocals).
about Cindy Walker. Born in Mart, Texas in 1918, she made her way to Hollywood
in the early 40s, scoring hits with Bing Crosby, and on her own ("When My
Blue Moon Turns To Gold"). In the mid-50s, she turned to songwriting full-time,
penning hits for Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison and many
others. Walker's approach was to write the words and melody, without accompaniment.
Unable to play an instrument, she enlisted her mother to provide piano accompaniment.
Ms. Walker is alive and well, and reportedly, still writing.
here is near perfect. "Bubbles In My Beer" and "Don't Be Ashamed Of Your Age"
are western swingers with the kind of economy and elegance of language that
brings to mind Irving Berlin at his best. As any songwriter knows, these are
the most difficult songs to write, and Walker pulls them off seamlessly. She's
equally adept on the ballads. Perhaps her best-known song, "You Don't Know
Me," is still one of the most aching portraits of unrequited love ever written.
"To you I'm just a friend / that's all I've ever been / but you don't know
me," says so much in so few words.
this wonderful songwriting on display, it's easy to forget about the artist
delivering the tunes. Willie Nelson's feel for the material is warm and conversational
throughout. He's happy to walk a step behind the songs, letting them do the
work. In some ways, Willie has become the successor to Sinatra, in the way
that he places emphasis on the emotional story of a lyric. On "It's All Your
Fault," when he sings, "It's all your fault when I'm a grandpa / If my grandkids
don't call you grandma / I'll just tell them it's all your fault," he conveys
a perfect combination of humor and heartbreak.
of classic country music, this record is a must. For songwriters, it's a how-to
textbook. Bill DeMain
to covers listen
with Cindy Walker