A new Willie Nelson album is always something to look forward to - and the guy is so prolific that you never have to wait long for the next one to trundle along!
After the wonderful "Remember Me (Vol.1)" from late last year (can we please have volume 2, Willie?), my first feelings about this collection are ones of slight disappointment. It's certainly something of a selection box, offering a mixture of old style country and a more contemporary Americana sound, and the highlights for me are definitely those more traditional sounding tracks - "My House Faces The South", "Cold War With You", and "Home In San Antone".
It sometimes feels as if the world and his wife have either dueted with Willie or are in the queue to do so, and this album has duet partners in spades, with a total of 9 other vocalists joining him. His son Lukas is the most present of these, appearing on nine of the fourteen tracks. He's got an interesting voice, sometimes sounding like a young Bob Dylan and others just like his old man. The duet with Merle Haggard on the opening track, a remake of "A Horse Called Music", is probably the best of the lot, offering a sweet melancoly take on what has always sounded a very sad song. This is probably the standout track on the album for me. Ray Price's appearance on "Cold War" is also worthy of note.
I have no doubt that it will be "Roll Me Up (and Smoke Me When I Die)", featuring rapper Snoop Dogg and country men Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson, that gets the most attention, which will be sad as, to my ears, it's pretty much a throwaway song. This song also seems to use exactly the same tune as "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" from a few years back and "Everytime He Drinks He Thinks Of Her" on this album ..... or is that just me?
The album rounds off with a couple of interesting covers - Pearl Jam's "Just Breathe" and Coldplay's "The Scientist" - and a jaunty little number called "Come On Back Jesus" with sons Lukas and Micah, which features a hook line of "Come on back Jesus and pick up John Wayne on the way"!
The instrumentation throughout is first class: Mickey Raphael 'parps' along as usual, there's great steel guitar from Mike Johnson, and Trigger sounds, well, just as wonderful as ever!
So, something of a mixed bag. Not my favourite Willie Nelson album, I can imagine reaching for the more traditional sounding collections over this one, but it's still head and shoulders above a lot of country music being produced these days and pretty incredible when you consider both Willie's age and the fact that he seems to be both touring and recording almost constantly!