Willie Nelson's Let's Face the Music and Dance is an exercise in nostalgia two or three times over.
In the first place, the collection of oldies and standards harks back to perhaps Nelson's most famous album: 1978's Stardust, an assortment of pop and jazz tunes produced by Booker T. Jones. That album broke with Nelson's rock outlaw-country image and shocked Columbia executives by selling like hotcakes.
Stardust itself was deliberately and audaciously backwards looking. First, it featured chestnuts like "September Song" and "Georgia on My Mind." But perhaps even more tellingly, it, like Let's Face the Music and Dance, followed in a long country tradition of borrowings from pop and jazz.
Country has always been willing, and even eager, to point to its links with blues and, more recently, rock—pop and jazz have a lower profile. But, historically, they have been every bit as important. Western Swing, one of the most popular country styles of the '30s and '40s, was swing-band jazz with string-band instrumentation. Its most famous proponent, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, would cover Ellington and Basie along with folk tunes and blues and rags. Louis Armstrong recorded with country star Jimmie Rodgers in the 1920s; Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded with the great pop singer (and one of Lester Young's favorites) Kay Starr in the 1950s. Merle Haggard was a huge fan of Bing Crosby—and of course Crosby himself wasn't above covering the odd country song, such as Al Dexter's "Pistol Packin' Mama."