It’s generally accepted that Willie Nelson has reached the stage in his career where he can do whatever he damn well pleases, regardless of the project’s commercial appeal. In the case of You Don’t Know Me: The Songs Of Cindy Walker, the album’s high enjoyability factor is likely incidental to Nelson’s true aims: honoring one of country music’s most enduring songwriters. A slick, professional tribute that’s shot through with heart, these 13 songs glow from within—Walker, a native Texan herself, has been covered by everyone from Bob Wills and Roy Orbison to Vic Damone and Kenny Loggins, giving some idea as to the sturdiness of her oeuvre. Here, Nelson keeps a loose hand on the wheel, content to let his crack western swing band rip through classics such as “Bubbles In My Beer,” “Take Me In Your Arms And Hold Me,” “The Warm Red Wine,” “Miss Molly,” and, of course, “You Don’t Know Me.” The studio sheen belies the fairly low-key nature of the project and by not overthinking the arrangements, Nelson positions these works in the best possible light. Whether Walker’s profile will be ever so slightly elevated thanks to this
collection remains to be seen, but with passionate fans such as the wily, versatile Nelson, any additional attention may be so much icing on the cake.