Transcending His Lousy Choice of Collaborators, Once Again

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Willie Nelson
Songbird
Lost Highway

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Ol' Willie isn't a mere songbird, but a damned song-hawk with an unerring eye for the emotional nutmeat of almost any musical number—a knack that has redeemed him in situations that might stain most others' credibility. (Duets with Julio Iglesias, anyone?) And it sure serves him well on this mishmash meet-up with alt-douche enfant terribleRyan Adams and his Cardinals, in a move that feels more like record label franchise building—"And let's get Willie to sing a Grateful Dead song!" "Cool!"—than an actual, like, album. Case in point is Christine McVie's title song (from the gazillion-selling Rumours), which is a kick to hear Nelson sing, but really, did either the singer or the song need it? Similar can be said of three redux Nelson numbers where Adams, in his typical ADHD fashion, gilds the lily into a gaudy Rose Parade float, which also obscures the piquant pairing of Nelson with Gram Parsons's "$1000 Wedding." The only things that really click are a dignified reading of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and the way NYC-based steel savant Jon Graboff—ironically, this set's true star—gorgeously interstices with Nelson and Willie's longtime harp warbler Mickey Raphael like he was born into the Family. Otherwise, file under "Dud."

 
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