Sometimes I like to imagine myself as a fly on the wall in the room where decisions are made. I'd love to have been in the room when someone said they thought it was a good idea for Pat Boone to do a heavy metal covers record. There was a meeting where someone who makes more in an hour than I make in a month said, "Yes" to a Kevin Federline recording contract.
There are a lot of great ideas that fail for one reason or another and a lot of ideas that look preposterous on paper that wind up finding an audience and working. Some executives and labels play it safe so they never wind up releasing an album from William Huang, but they also wind up being the doofus who passes on The Doors because Jim Morrison lacks charisma (this allegedly happened, if you can believe that). I'm not saying my track record would be any better than these geniuses — okay, so that is what I'm saying, but forget that for a minute — but I would like to hear the thinking behind some of these things.
So where am I going with this? Joe Bonamassa and B.B. King cover a Willie Nelson song on Joe's new Black Rock album. Now pairing JB and B.B. isn't anything shocking or scandalous nor is it inherently stupid. There is always the risk of pairing up too heavyweight talents that too much of a good thing can spoil a song or that the two heavyweights will each pull back too much for the other and the song will fall flat. While that can and has happened from time to time, there's nothing crazy about a young cub wanting to play alongside one of his heroes. It's the hypotenuse in this musical triangle that makes you scratch your head.
Willie Nelson is a musical institution who has made a lot of money writing for other people. Maybe I'm the only one who lacks imagination but I never would have thought of handing JB and B.B. a Willie tune, and I would have been so, so wrong because everything about "Night Life" works. Kevin Shirley's production puts some shine on the horns without making the rest of the song slick. Joe sings with a big smile on his face and B.B. King plays the role of B.B. King. He sounds fresh and energized, and the song is a perfect vehicle for them. Classic rock stations should grab this track and put it in heavy rotation on the weekends. "Night Life" is going to get those aging boomers dancing in the backyard of their summer cookouts, beer and ribs in hand. It's classy, classic, and fun.