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Left Lane: The Little Willies

Norah Jones & friends reunite ... six years later

February 3, 2012
By RICH GIBSON , Times Leader

FROM?THE early spring of 2006 came one of that year's unexpected gems:

a debut album matching jazz-pop vocalist Norah Jones with four of NYC's most respected

session players.

Article Photos

Considering each shared a love for classic country, the idea of entering a studio to record a number of vintage hit songs soon became a priority.

And who better than Hall of Famer Willie Nelson to emulate in what turned into a stirring tribute. Jones and her cronies thus christened themselves: The Little Willies.

Their ensuing CD was a superb collection of cover songs, penned by the likes of Nelson, Hank Williams, Kris Kristofferson and the late Townes Van Zandt, among others.

The Willies' live performances proved few and far between considering the band opted to work, primarily, on individual projects.

But what are friends for? Jones gathered the troops for one of their legendary late night jam sessions at Manhattan's Living Room on the Lower East Side.

The group vowed to make time for a follow-up project and nearly six years later, The Little Willies are back with "For The Good Times," released during the first week in January.

There was no reason to stray off course it was unanimously agreed upon. Thus, 'Good Times' is a second 12-track collection of almost exclusive covers, most of which will be recognized by the listening public.

Once again, the Willies ween nuggets from both Nelson (Permanently Lonely) and Kristofferson ('For The Good Times'). Additionally, Loretta Lynn ('Fist City'); Dolly Parton ('Jolene'); and Lefty Frizzel ('If You've Got The Money, I've Got The Time) receive the Willies' royal treatment.

Reconvening with Jones are band members Richard Julian (acoustic guitar, vocals); Jim Campilongo (electric, acoustic guitars, vocals); Lee Alexander (bass, background vocals); and Dan Rieser (drums, background vocals).

The record opens with a Ralph Stanley tune, "I Worship You," a song the band performed last month on Late Night With David Letterman.

The Willies throw a couple of curves with "Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves" an 18-wheeler's delight penned by Cal Martin; and "Foul Owl On The Prowl," a Quincy Jones/Alan and Marilyn Bergman composition with jazz overtones.

Hardly a surprise, there, considering Jones has that genre nailed with a collection of impressive solo projects as testimony.

The Willies played a brief series of live dates last fall, debuting songs from the new disc. No current tour dates are listed on Jones' website.

It is revealed, however, the soon-to-be 33-year-old is completing work on another solo project, entitled "Little Broken Hearts" to be released this spring on the Blue Note label.

COUNTRY star Randy Travis, a seven-time Grammy winner, is celebrating his 25th year in the music business. His 'Silver Anniversary Tour' kicks off this month and continues through the summer. It's not out of the question Travis will make a return visit to Jamboree in the Hills where he's performed several times during the past three decades.

COMING next week, a new record from Dierks Bentley ("Home'). Bentley has labeled the new project a return to his classic country roots.

YOU know r&b pop superstar Lionel Richie for dozens of hits, including "All Night Long."

In March, Richie explores his country roots on a new disc where he's joined by a number of guest vocalists including Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles....


SATURDAY night at Pittsburgh's Moondogs Club, located 15 minutes northwest of the city, Southside Johnny and the Poor Fools perform an all-ages show starting at 9:00.

It's a new touring band for the Asbury Park, N.J. based Johnny Lyon, one of the great r&b vocalists...On Feb. 11, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe performs the Rolling Stones' classic 'Sticky Fingers' record in its entirety at Mr. Small's Theater. It's an all-ages show beginning at 7:00 p.m....

EARLY March brings singer/songwriters Eilen Jewell (Mar. 1) to Pittsburgh's Club Cafe and legendary folk rocker John Prine (Mar. 2) to the Benedum Center....

JUST announced: Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center welcomes the Red Hot Chili Peppers on May 30th for an all ages performance at 7:30 p.m.....

Gibson may be reached at



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