Country meets pop and jazz on a new album by singer-songwriter Anna Wilson.
Wilson taps into Nashville’s so-called “Countrypolitan” era with the help of past and present country stars and two contemporary jazz giants. She gives a big band treatment to “Walkin’ After Midnight,” featuring the Grammy-winning trio Lady Antebellum.
Wilson explains that Countrypolitan is rooted in “The Nashville Sound,” a style introduced in the late 1950s by artists like Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline and Eddie Arnold.
“The reason it was called ‘The Nashville Sound’ was because these artists decided to bring these lush string arrangements and more pop sensibilities into their country recordings," explains. "Because they were known as country artists, so that they could get more mainstream airplay on the radio, alongside guys like Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mel Torme, all those guys which were the pop music of the day back then. And so a lot of people criticized country artists for going too pop, kind of abandoning their country roots. But what they really did was they opened up country music to the rest of the world.”
Anna is no stranger to Nashville, having written songs for Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn and Lee Ann Womack. But, as Anna recalls, jazz was her first love, long before she caught the country music bug.
“I grew up on the Great American Songbook and all the great jazz and Broadway standards and stuff like that," she says. "But, I also started getting into country music in high school and really loved it. That was back when country was really having its big explosion in the late-‘80s, early-‘90s. When, of course, it came time for me to graduate college I was caught up in all of that. So I said, ‘I’m going to go to Nashville.’”
On Countrypolitan Duets, Anna Wilson and Matt Giraud sing Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me.” Also featured on the album are country stars Keith Urban, Billy Dean, Connie Smith and Kenny Rodgers, as well as jazzmen Rick Braun and Larry Carlton.
Wilson says one of her biggest thrills was singing alongside Ray Price on “You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me.”
“It is the one track on the record I think that completely embodies the entire concept of the record," she says. "It’s a classic country song made famous by a legendary artist who fortunately happens to still be alive and can sing on it, being Ray Price. And then I’ve got my contemporary country music friends in Rascal Flatts to be on it. And then, of course, myself the jazz singer.”
Anna Wilson made her debut on The Grand Ole Opry last November, sharing the stage with Connie Smith, Billy Dean and others.