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Willie Nelson, ‘Heroes’ – Album Review

Heroes
Sony Legacy

Willie Nelson‘s new album ‘Heroes’ is an eclectic collection of ambient emo-country, Texas swing and jazzy ballads. The singer isn’t confined by the country genre on any of the 14 songs. No one will ever doubt his credentials, so even songs like ‘The Scientist’ feel like one Hank Sr. may have chosen decades ago. OK, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but few other singers could give the political lyric the proper twang.

‘Every Time He Thinks of Her’ is one highlight on this project, in stores May 15. His son Lukas Nelson — who is deserving of having his name on the album jacket — joins his father for the most pure three minutes on the project.

The younger Nelson is a welcome addition to nine songs on ‘Heroes.’ Other guest artists include Jamey Johnson, Merle Haggard, Sheryl Crow, Ray Price, Micah Nelson, Snoop Dogg and Kris Kristofferson. On at least one occasion (‘Come on Up to the House’), the mix feels too much like an award show, but that’s a finicky complaint. One is left to wonder if Nelson no longer believes he can carry an entire album as he approaches 80-years-old, but he shows no cracks on ‘The Scientist’ or ‘That’s All There is to This Song.’

‘Hero’ and ‘The Sound of Your Memory’ are tracks to skip as the plodding beat and lazy harmonica playing do little to add to the project. ‘Cold War With You’ is a confusing moment on ‘Heroes.’ It’s as if a female singer backed out on the love song and the opportunistic Lukas Nelson was standing by ready to fill in.

From start to finish, ‘Heroes’ is a artistically satisfying album full of colorful lyrics and patient, skilled musicianship (‘Home in San Antone’ being a fine example of the latter). But it’s not an album to dial up for a long jog or a road trip. The mood is similar to the recent one of duets Tony Bennett produced.

3 Stars

 

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