By Bee Delores
Loving You not only captures the magnificence of American music, but serves as a glowing showcase for Bobbie Nelson and Amanda Shires.
Bobbie Nelson has a way of playing the piano that moves the soul. She sculpts melodies that are evocative and heart-wrenching, tearing at the heartstrings and exposing nerve endings.
On the posthumous Loving You, a collaborative record with Amanda Shires, Nelson’s legacy is cemented as one of the greatest performers to ever live. For her part, Shires pours her voice around timeless classics, effectively demonstrating her own talents as a consummate vocal storyteller. The care with which she massages melodies, as heard on songs like ‘Waltz Across Texas’ (Ernest Tubb) and ‘Always on My Mind’ (Willie Nelson), is a marvel to behold.
“Summertime and the livin' is easy / Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high,” croons Shires on ‘Summertime’, joined by Wilie Nelson and his crackling and smokey tenor. The performance, once recorded by both Nelsons on a 2016 record, finds new vitality here. Strings sizzle, and the piano dances like rays of light. Bobbie Nelson’s playing conjures up that deep-chested feeling of family; each note carries with it age-old wisdom, ripened and for the plucking.
Across the record, Shires and Nelson collect a vast array of some of pop music’s most enduring songs, from ‘Dreamed a Little Dream’ (first recorded by Ozzie Nelson) and ‘Old Fashioned Love’ (Merle Haggard) to the hymnal ‘Tempted and Tired’. Then, there’s ‘Over the Rainbow’, a Judy Garland standard, on which Shires more than holds her own. Unsurprisingly, Nelson’s playing is wondrous and emotional. “Someday I'll wish upon a star, and wake up where the clouds are far behind me”, sings Shires with particular ease.
On the titular cut, a solely piano piece, Nelson takes the spotlight with an earnest intensity. Starlit piano sweeps over an ageless melody, the sort you won’t soon forget. But that’s just par for the course of Nelson’s abilities. In her decades-spanning career, she knew exactly how to puncture the heart with her work, and ‘Loving You’ is certainly no exception.
Loving You might be an album of mostly covers, but a great song is a great song. The 10 here not only capture the magnificence of American music but serve as a showcase for Bobbie Nelson and Amanda Shires. They’re in their finest form, soaring to the mountains or gliding down to the valleys – whatever any given song requires.
Loving You is an entire success of a release and a perfect way to remember Bobbie Nelson’s colossal legacy.
Loving You is out on Friday June 23 via Silver Knife / ATO Records.