Following up his brilliant 2007 album Pride, alt-folkster Matthew Houck is really going the extra mile on his new album to secure his old-timey country boy cred. To Willie, a cover album of some down-and-out middle-of-the-road Willie Nelson songs (opening with "Reasons to Quit," first line: "The coke and booze don't do me like before...") is commendable if only for the fact that Houck steers clear of the most obvious Nelson singles, "Crazy," "Bloody Mary Morning," "Good Hearted Woman," etc.
It's a solid album all the way through: Houck's voice is a perfect fit for these loner ballads and mid-tempo bluesy "too many wines and too many beers" numbers. "I Gotta Get Drunk" is the only real up-tempo number, a perfectly positioned break half-way through the album. The three songs that follow however drift a little too aimlessly in their production, especially the bizarre Phil Collins 80s synth feel of "Permanently Lonely," which feels rather out of place with the rest of the album.
"I Gotta Get Drunk"
Overall though, it's worth picking up. Neither Phosphorescent nor Willie Nelson fans will be disappointed here. Whether this heralds any kind of transition in Houck's career remains to be seen.
Recommended situations for listening to To Willie: Your wife's left you, your hound dog up and died, and you flipped your pickup truck comin' back from the bowling alley with your friend Jed, so now you just gotta go and get real drunk off some cheap domestic lite beer.