Willie Nelson - “That’s Life” Review

Story posted March 8, 2021 in Arts & Entertainment by Nicholas Mancuso.

Willie Nelson adds to his expansive discography with the release of his cover of famous Frank Sinatra songs in “That’s Life.”

Willie Nelson is one of the most recognizable names in country music with classics such as “Highwayman” and “Always on My Mind” but has dabbled in jazz music as well. “That’s Life” is Nelson paying tribute to one of the most recognizable names in jazz music, Sinatra, with classic songs like “Luck Be a Lady” and “You Make Me Feel So Young.”

Nelson created this album with classic Sinatra instrumentals, including a jazz orchestra, but the audio was recreated to sound more modern.

“That’s Life” is a unique album for Nelson who is known for his work in country music, but this album shows that he has what it takes to be successful in the jazz industry as well.

It’s clear Nelson knew how he wanted the album to sound since “That’s Life” flows so well throughout the tracks — especially for being composed entirely of Sinatra cover songs.

At the ripe age of 87, Nelson signs Sinatra classics with an older voice, and although it may not be what it used to be, it hits the right notes in a smooth tone with enough frequency to be enjoyable. The higher notes are a little on the rough side, but the calming feeling that Nelson's voice creates throughout the album is worth the wear.

Some listeners may believe “That’s Life” is another great album of Nelson’s, but compared to his earlier work in jazz, “That’s Life” does not rank among his very best. In 2008, Nelson released the jazz album “Two Men with the Blues,” which was a huge success, charting at No. 1 among jazz albums and No 20 among the Billboard charts. Nelson and Wynton Marsalis collaborated to release “Two Men with the Blues” with classic songs, including “Georgia On My Mind.”

“That’s Life” is a good album, but it isn’t a No. 20 album. Nelson’s rendition of “Georgia On My Mind” is better than any of the songs on “That’s Life,” even though the newer record possesses good cuts like “You Make Me Feel So Young” and the title track.

“That’s Life” is not one that is going to be a household name among Nelson’s fans but it is one that people will enjoy. The album does its job of paying homage to one of the best jazz musicians of all time, and fans should believe that Nelson would have made Sinatra smile with this one.

Nelson has announced that he hopes to dabble in a new industry with the release of a future book called “Letters to America” in June. After he’s tried his hand at being an author, hopefully Nelson will continue to release music for fans to enjoy.

Rating: 5/10


Nicholas Mancuso is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email nbm9@psu.edu.