Willie Nelson Country Music

Willie Nelson Country Music
The notion of an artist as universally beloved as Willie Nelson working with a producer as unwaveringly consistent as T Bone Burnett sets up some lofty expectations. In a sense, such a pairing is not unlike the initial Johnny Cash/Rick Rubin experiment, in terms of one of America's greatest musical stylists becoming the voice for one of America's greatest musical visionaries. But whereas Cash was persuaded to conform to Rubin's highly skewed perspective on country, Burnett understands Nelson's milieu better than anyone else. Nelson, of course, also understands the nature of songwriting in a different way than Cash did, having written several songs that have become cornerstones of Nashville's foundation. Therefore, one glance at the material chosen for Country Music suggests that, like the album's title, the overarching intent is to do something more definitive than Rubin's concept of "American recordings." Thanks in large part to Burnett, it is. Much of Nelson's current charm has stemmed from his willingness to try anything musically, as his extensive discography over the past two decades illustrates. But under Burnett's firm guidance, Country Music is not a concept album as much as it is simply a collection of time-tested songs that each contain the elusive core ingredients that have fuelled Nelson's writing, from the playfulness of "Pistol Packin' Mama" to the despair of "My Baby's Gone" and the moral assuredness of "Satisfied Mind." And with a band featuring Burnett session regulars Buddy Miller, Ronnie McCoury and Dennis Crouch, Nelson's strengths as an interpreter are under no constraints. Country Music may not be the most affecting album Nelson has ever done ― that honour will always go to Red Headed Stranger ― but in accomplishing its ambitious goal, it has to stand as one of his most complete performances on record. (Rounder)