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A Jazz Singer Teams With Nashville's Finest

Anna Wilson enlisted big names to help her jazz up some country standards on <em>Countrypolitan Duets</em>.
Michael Gomez
Courtesy of the artist
Anna Wilson enlisted big names to help her jazz up some country standards on Countrypolitan Duets.

Patsy Cline probably never imagined that "Walkin' After Midnight" could sound quite like it does on a new CD called Countrypolitan Duets.

Jazz singer Anna Wilson, working in collaboration with country group Lady Antebellum, twists Cline's original from a bouncy country ballad into a full-throated swing number. Wilson has brought together an A-list roster of other country music performers to reinterpret classic songs with a touch of jazz.

"[Nashville] is such a great mecca for songwriters," Wilson tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon. "But from a vocal standpoint, I'm more of a jazz vocalist. ... I thought it would be great to combine the two and record classic country songs in a jazz styling."

One of those A-list country stars is Connie Smith, whose guest spot on Countrypolitan Duets is in her own song, "Just for What I Am." Smith says she fell in love with the idea of reinterpreting an original.

"I went through my 50 albums, and I was trying to find a song for two girls to sing," she says. "I came up with this one and thought, 'I'm sure this is the way that Anna feels.' It's kind of my philosophy."

The idea of crossing genres is nothing new in Nashville. In the late '50s and early '60s, country artists created "the Nashville sound" by exploring different styles.

"Their music was almost considered the pop music of the day," Smith says. "At the time, they were criticized for abandoning their country roots. They are really the pioneers that helped bring modern-day country music and put Nashville on the map in terms of the mainstream. It was really an exciting era to shine a light on."

Wilson also showcases one of her own songs on the album — a tune called "I Will Never Know."

"I said, 'I really want to write one song on this record that would be indicative of what I might have written and recorded if I was an artist back in the countrypolitan era,' " Wilson says. "I just hope that people learn that great music shouldn't have any boundaries."

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