Formed in 2003, The Little Willies comprise five musicians, the most recognizable of which is Norah Jones, whose collective passion for country music has led to the release of their second album For the Good Times. A cover album that ranges from classics such as Johnny Cash’s Wide Open Road to rare diddies such as Foul Owl on the Prowl from the soundtrack of 1967 film In the Heat of the Night, For the Good Times is an authentic country album that pays homage to the storytelling genre.
The record kicks off with opening track I Worship You, which outlines the trials of a person devoted to their unfaithful partner. What may strike you first is the genuine twang of Norah Jones’s voice, which is more prevalent here than on her solo works. Her voice is perfectly suited for classic country and pricks up your ears in a captivating manner. For this cover of Ralph Stanley, the vocals of Jones and one of her male counterparts are utilized together and separately. In doing so, the tale becomes gender ambiguous and thus relatable to both as Jones sings “I worship you, the things you do and still you’re not satisfied”, while the lead male vocal laments “And my friends next day say, what a price I must pay, last night I saw someone with your wife”.
Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves sounds like something you’d hear during a Quentin Tarantino film – a concoction of brush drums that emulate a slow rolling locomotive and surf guitar that give credence to the deep toned lyrics “I got myself in this fix, all because I tried to mix diesel smoke, dangerous curves”. The best song title definitely belongs to Loretta Lynn’s Fist City. The lyrics to this cover are so corny they become instantly catchy; example “If you don’t wanna go to Fist City, ya better detour around my town” and “You better move your feet, if you don’t wanna eat, a meal that’s called Fist City”.
However, the best is saved for last as Jones excels while covering Dolly Parton’s hit Jolene. Rather than allowing herself to be carried away, Jones remains classy and understated while still being emotive. This cover is the perfect excuse for all those who secretly enjoyed this song but didn’t want the embarrassment of keeping Dolly Parton in their music collection.
Overall, For the Good Times by The Little Willies is good old-fashioned knee-slappin’, tune-whistlin’, square-dancin’, saloon-swingin’, honky-tonk fun.