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Review: New Willie Nelson album lacks focus

Review: New Willie Nelson album lacks focus

Willie Nelson, "Heroes" (Sony Legacy)

May 15th, 2012 by MICHAEL McCALL, For The Associated Press in News

Willie Nelson returns to the Sony label family, home to his greatest commercial triumphs, including "Red Headed Stranger" and "Stardust." As prolific as anyone of his time, Nelson recordings fly with a frequency that speaks of his musical spontaneity and his willingness to record with whomever he desires. Therefore, his albums sometime get lost from sheer volume - and a lack of focus and consistency.

Sony Legacy respectfully positions "Heroes" as more artfully considered, but other than a remarkable take on Coldplay's "The Scientist," there's little that separates the album from Nelson's avalanche of releases. There's the all-over-the-map covers, from Pearl Jam to Bob Wills. There's also the bevy of collaborators, from familiar partners like Ray Price to newer buddies like Snoop Dogg (who croons tunelessly on "Roll Me Up," Nelson's latest ode to pot, which also includes vocal contributions from Jamey Johnson and Kris Kristofferson).

The most frequent duet partner is his son Lukas Nelson, who joins nine of the 14 songs. It's admirable for a father to want to boost his son's fledgling career, but it does the music no favors. His son's voice has Willie's reedy tone, but little of its musicality or range, making this collection less heroic than it could have been.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Nelson has cut the Wayne Carson song "A Horse Called Music" before, even making it the title cut of a 1989 album. But he's never conveyed its message about devoting yourself to your art more sympathetically. He's joined by old friend Merle Haggard, who certainly rises to the occasion.