Covering iconic songs from The Great American Songbook can be fraught with danger, sometimes resulting in performances that sound like pale imitations of the original versions.

James Taylor, however, has an innate ability to inhabit songs he didn’t write and make them his own, as evidenced on his newest release of standards and show songs that were part of the family record collection.

Employing simple stripped-down guitar arrangements based around Taylor and John Pizzarelli’s skillful guitar work, Taylor’s vocals bring new life to songs such as Moon River, The Nearness of You, God Bless the Child, Teach Me Tonight, Pennies from Heaven and Ol’ Man River.

American Standard by James Taylor is out February 28 via Fantasy/Control.

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