Sunday, May 13, 2012


Here's the good news, Willie fans:  Every two or three discs, Willie gets the right combo of producer, songs, and mood, and comes up with a good one.  This is one of those times.  While it's all over the stylistic map, that's great, because like a good Willie show, you want to have some Texas Swing, something heartfelt, and some songwriting gems is a thoughtful mood, along with his usual good-time chug-along tunes.  And there isn't a bad song choice on the disc.

The title just credits Willie, but this is one where Willie and Family and Friends would fit.  No stranger to duets, almost every song here is done in partnership.  There's the usual cohorts, including Ray Price, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Sheryl Crow, but then there are some surprises, too.  Like, umm, Snoop Dogg.  He joins in the gang singalong of a new Willie joint (hahahhhah), called Roll Me Up, which seems to take its inspiration from the famous Keith Richards story about snorting his old man's remains.  Here, Willie asks his friends to "Roll me up and smoke me when I'm gone", and it's as fun as it sounds. 

The main guest is Willie's young kid, Lukas.  Just 22, he's been showing a lot of promise, and here, typically, Willie gives him a large platform.  He's a featured vocalist on a full 9 of the 14 cuts, sharing lines, sometimes doing full verses, to the point it's almost a full duet album.   Plus, he's the writer of three of the cuts, including the excellent No Place To Fly, which shows he picked up a lot from Dad, apparently including his, urm, blunt history; there's a line about "Every day I get stoned/I sit and try to write a song."  Like father, like son.  Lukas also picked up a nasal delivery, although he's missing the gravitas Willie has, and instead has a bit of a reedy sound that takes a little getting used to.   Really, he's overused on the disc, even showing up on tunes where there are already guest singers, like Come On Up To The House, with Sheryl Crow.  She and Willie were doing just fine on this gospel-flavoured Tom Waits number, and Lukas adds nothing.

Producer Buddy Cannon and Nelson obviously put a lot of work into this one, Willie doing some new writing, and finding some strong covers.  There's the overdone trick of having the old dog get hip to the kids' music though, with covers of Pearl Jam and Coldplay.  Actually, Just Breathe from the pen of the esteemed Vedder turns out to be a fine choice, and sounds natural for Willie, but The Scientist is really not a lyric that works, especially since Nelson sounds pretty ancient on that particular track.  It's not a failure, but only because it's so interesting.  It's an excellent late-life album in the end, and with all the Lukas love, feels somewhat like Willie passing on the torch.  Is that another dope joke?

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