May 11

A Hybrid of Jazz and Country on Willie Nelson’s “Crying Time”

Willie Nelson and Norah Jones sang “Crying Time” at Lincoln Center with a style that makes the song all theirs. Something about Jones’ magnificent ease dolefully shimmers against Nelson’s deep, plain, and profound narration.

On the other hand, Wynton Marsalis led the virtuoso musicians. Other members include Mickey Raphael, Walter Blanding, and Ali Jackson.  They all did an excellent performance as well.

“Now everything changed,” Marsalis says in introduction, “And You know how that happens? Suddenly your heart is unchained and it’s crying time.”

Norah Jones

Norah Jones was born in New York City on March 30, 1979, to the Indian musician Ravi Shankar. Jones grew up in Texas and studied jazz piano at the University of North Texas.  Later in 1999, she moved to New York City. In here, she started performing in clubs and waited tables. She signed with Blue Note Records in 2001, and went on to win five Grammy awards for her debut album, Come Away with Me, in 2002. Moreover, her recent albums include her 2012 solo effort Little Broken Hearts and No Fools, No Fun.

A Hybrid of Jazz and Country on Willie Nelson's “Crying Time” 1
Willie Nelson and Norah Jones (You Tube)

Crying Time, The Original: Buck Owens

“Crying Time” is a song from 1964 written by country music artist Buck Owens. Owens recorded the original version of his song and released it as the B side to the 45th single “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” in 1964.

Oh, it’s cryin’ time again, you’re gonna leave me
I can see that far away look in your eyes
I can tell by the way you hold me darlin’. Alright now
That it won’t be long before it’s cryin’ time

A Hybrid of Jazz and Country on Willie Nelson's “Crying Time” 2
Buck Owens (photo from

Crying Time: Ray Charles Cover

Most of  Ray Charles’ song choices and arrangements drew from the Nashville Sound. It is a style of country and western centered around lush ballads, orchestral instrumentation, and smooth, de-accented vocals. While the Nashville Sound was geared toward mainstream crossover, Buck Owens pioneered the rival Bakersfield Sound, which embraced the less polished honky-tonk tradition.

Despite the rougher style, Charles’ alterations to Owens’ “Crying Time” feel surprisingly subtle and natural. Charles slightly slows the tempo to emphasize the heartbreak and adds a female counterpoint, courtesy of his regular backing singers, the Raelettes. The ever-present strings and choir that is featured on all Charles’ country records appear intact, but with a lighter touch than that which graced I Can’t Stop Loving You and other tracks.

The shuffling rhythm betrays the song’s honky-tonk origins. However, “Crying Time” blends seamlessly into the Ray Charles songbook, while remaining faithful to the spirit of Owens’ original.

Country, R&B, and Ray Charles

At first glance, rhythm & blues and country & western would seem to be complete opposites – not only in sound but also in the demographics of their audiences. Yet both R&B and country are remarkably similar under the skin, sharing in common song structures, thematic concerns, and raw emotional honesty far removed from the more restrained sounds of traditional pop.

Both genres are also music for and by marginalized people, for decades granted little respect by the mainstream pop establishment, who marketed their platters to fringe audiences as “race records” or “hillbilly music.” The affinity between the two seemingly disparate genres reached a peak in the racially divided America of the early ‘60s, when an R&B legend, Ray Charles, earned his greatest popular success singing C&W songs — and, in the process, helped bring Country a little closer to the mainstream.

A Hybrid of Jazz and Country on Willie Nelson's “Crying Time” 3
Ray Charles (gif from

And folks, if you like to read more articles about our favorite country stars, you can check Country Thang Daily website or follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


Crying Time, Norah Jones, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson

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