The new Willie Nelson album is as good as any Willie Nelson album from the past, and It Always Will Be.
Featuring songwriting contributions by outside writers, vocal exchanges with his many friends in the business, and stellar compositions of his own, this Willie album is as star-studded as a clear Texas night. Backed in the studio by a solid band of players, Willie's vocals and acoustic guitar are the key players throughout.
Willie wastes no time and opens with the title song, a heartbreaker, a tearjerker and a just plain classic, brand new and written by the red headed stranger himself. "My Broken Heart Belongs to You" is another Willie number (co-written with David Anderson) and a nice Tex-a-cali broken-hearted love song. His "Texas," is also one of the album's highlights, a real Marty Robbins/"Western Skies" ode to the Lone Star state.
"Picture in a Frame" was penned by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennen and Nelson does right by the poignant, old-fashioned song of everlasting love. The song "The Way You See Me," dates back to 1963, with its melody right out of an old country song book. It tells the story of a down-and-outer who hasn't quite recovered after a break-up. Paula Nelson penned the contemporary country blues duet "Be That As It May," while Lukas Nelson contributes "You Were It," an anti-love letter to the one who done him wrong.
Willie covers Toby Keith's "Tired," a story-song about the American working man, and duets with newfound friend Norah Jones on "Dreams Come True." The piano bar number sounds as if it was written by Cole Porter or the Gershwins, but rather, it's a contemporary song by J.C. Hopkins. Lucinda Williams shares the mic with Willie on her affecting break-up song, "Overtime."
Most surprising amidst the mellow classics on this collection is the hip hop/Kid Rock style production on Willie's take of the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider." It's no surprise that the song's a perfect fit (though what is surprising is that it took Willie this long to record it!).
If there's one thing we've come to count on from American treasure Willie Nelson, it's that he never lets us down, no matter what or when he chooses to record. May his outlaw flag fly high for a long time to come -- it's always welcome, always will be.
By Danielle Santiago