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CD Reviews: Review of It Always Will Be by Willie Nelson
Red Rocker Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Willie Nelson: It Always Will Be (2004)

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Pop quiz: How many albums has Willie Nelson released in his career? Keep in mind that he first arrived in Nashville in early 1960. Yes, that’s 1960. Before The Beatles had ever found their way to American soil and before JFK had taken office, Willie Nelson was trying to get his first break in Nashville. Oh yeah, he was already 27 years old!

By 1963, Willie had written hit songs for Patsy Cline and Ray Price, among others. It wasn’t until almost a decade later, however, that his star began to shine in its own right against the backdrop of mainstream country music. Willie came and went for years thereafter, he battled tax evasion charges in the ‘80s and just about scrapped his musical career altogether as his genre fell out of favor. Yet somehow he endured it all to remain painstakingly relevant and even newly-energized within the post-Nirvana generation. Hard to believe at age 71, but Willie Nelson is currently cranking out new material at the most fevered pace of his career, nearly a dozen albums in this decade alone. He’s collaborated with virtually every artist who’s anybody over his magnificent livelihood, a routine that’s served him particularly well of late. A series of recent USA Network TV specials has produced three spectacular live records featuring partnerships with Sheryl Crow, Ryan Adams, Merle Haggard and Norah Jones, to name a very few.

It Always Will Be finds Willie back in the studio with a handful of new original compositions, as well as a smattering of well-advised covers and dazzling duets. The end result falls somewhere just shy of astral. On the title track, a simple and elegant slide guitar whispers throughout one of Willie’s finest ballads in years. Mickey Raphael’s longtime harmonica accompaniment opens “Picture in a Frame,” a sobering take on the Tom Waits masterpiece. Toby Keith shares a writing credit on “Tired,” a woozy cowboy waltz, but lets Willie sing the tale of “selling my body for these nickels and these dimes.” “I Didn’t Come Here (and I Ain’t Leavin’)” is an oft-revisited barroom shuffle that packs a particular wallop here, as does a full-tilt version of the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider.”

Pound for pound, It Always Will Be weighs in as a heavyweight, far more convincing than anything Willie needed to register at this point in his striking career. Regardless of where the worn and shabby road warrior leads us from here, no one can deny the radiance of the Willie Nelson light. And did you notice? I never did supply the answer to my original question... 

~Red Rocker 


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