American Classic

Not to be confused with U.S. Classic.
American Classic
Studio album by Willie Nelson
Released August 25, 2009
Genre Country
Outlaw country, Jazz, Traditional pop music
Label Blue Note
Willie Nelson chronology
Moment of Forever
American Classic
Country Music

American Classic is an album from American country music artist Willie Nelson, released on August 25, 2009. It focuses on the American popular songbook and standard jazz classics, and includes guest appearances by Norah Jones and Diana Krall.


In 2008, Nelson met at his ranch in Austin, Texas with his producer Tommy Lipuma, and jazzmen Joe Sample to select the songs for the album. The twelve songs selected were a collection of classics, that included a re-recording by Nelson of Always on My Mind. A duet with Barbra Streisand was planned for the recording of the album, that ultimately was not performed.[1] The photo in the cover of the album was taken in Nelson's ranch by photographer Danny Clinch.[2]


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
Rolling Stone[5]

Rolling Stone rated the album with three stars out of five, receiving a mixed review: "Nelson can be kind of lazy [...] he only occasionally sounds like he's trying. [...] But his band pushes the music into airless cocktail-jazz territory, and Nelson often sounds glib and unengaged." [6]

The New York Times praised Nelson's band but criticized his performance of the songs: "(American Classic) follows the lineage of “Stardust” in one sense, with a menu of songbook fare. But in another sense it feels like a capitulation.Its sound is lustrous, its personnel impeccable. What’s missing is the sense of conviction that Mr. Nelson brings to his strongest work. [...] What redeems much of “American Classic” is the singularity of Mr. Nelson’s voice, along with the deceptive shrewdness of his singing".[7]

The Austin Chronicle rated the album with two stars out of five. The publication criticized the arrangements: "American Classic is tender and light, and Nelson inhabits the songs easily [...] Unable to recapture the shock of reinvention that was Stardust, producer Tommy LiPuma rests Nelson's slowly distilled vocals atop a band of jazz ringers that squares the Texan with the tradition rather than upsetting it, and only Joe Sample's piano steps up to push the songs beyond their ready-made standard status".[8]

Prefix magazine rated the album with eight points out of ten. The magazine gave a positive review to the album: "Country star (Willie Nelson) seems quite comfortable flying to the moon and singing among those stars. Nelson’s weathered voice is complemented by refined instrumentals from a collective of seasoned jazzmen [...] At the age of 76, the Texas native proves that there is still plenty of stardust left under his cowboy hat".[9]

Pop Matters rated the album with four points out of five, the bad review focused in Nelson's phrasing and the arrangements: "Nelson’s signature phrasing has become a vehicle for his laziness, as his words sound hollow and forced [...] certain performances sound like a man going through the motions. [...] Nelson’s lackluster vocals put the listener to sleep. He murmurs the verses, and seemingly wakes up for a few seconds to sing the louder chorus. Then he goes back to his nodding-out rumblings. While LiPuma and Nelson bonded over Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and Django Reinhardt, and tried to incorporate those sounds into the arrangements, the sweeping, cinematic string sections do not resemble the Playboys’ fiddle or Reinhardt’s distinct gypsy sound".[10]

The album was nominated at the 52nd Grammy Awards for Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

Track listing

No. TitleWriter(s) Length
1. "The Nearness of You"  Hoagy Carmichael, Ned Washington 4:44
2. "Fly Me to the Moon"  Bart Howard 2:51
3. "Come Rain or Come Shine"  Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer 3:57
4. "If I Had You" (featuring Diana Krall)James Campbell, Reginald Connelly, Ted Shapiro 4:22
5. "Ain't Misbehavin'"  Fats Waller, Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf 2:56
6. "I Miss You So"  Jimmy Henderson, Bertha Scott, Sid Robin 4:32
7. "Because of You"  Arthur Hammerstein, Dudley Wilkinson 3:24
8. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (featuring Norah Jones)Frank Loesser 3:59
9. "Angel Eyes"  Matt Dennis, Earl Brent 4:34
10. "On the Street Where You Live"  Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe 2:57
11. "Since I Fell for You"  Buddy Johnson 3:41
12. "Always on My Mind"  Johnny Christopher, Mark James, Wayne Carson Thompson 3:28


Chart performance

Chart (2009) Peak
U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums 14
U.S. Billboard Top 200 43
Canadian Albums Chart 19
New Zealand Albums Chart 3
Swedish Albums Chart 16
Danish Albums Chart 29
German Albums Chart 96


  1. Beville Darden (August 28, 2009). "Willie Nelson Revisits Old Standards for New 'Classic'". The Boot. AOL Inc. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
  2. Beville Darden (August 26, 2009). "Willie 'Tweets' About Romance, Retirement and New Record". The Boot. AOL, Inc. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
  3. "American Classic by Willie Nelson". Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  4. Allmusic review
  5. "American Classic". Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  6. Jody Rosen (August 24, 2009). "Willie Nelson American Classic". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
  7. Nate Chinen (August 23, 2009). "American Classic". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
  8. Doug Freeman (August 14, 2009). "Texas Platters". Austin Chronicle. Austin Chronicle Corp. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
  9. "American Classic". Prefix Magazine. Prefix Magazine. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
  10. Sarah Moore (October 13, 2009). "Willie Nelson: American Classic". Pop Pop Matters. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
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