The Essential Willie Nelson

Since we’re doing country music criticism these days, here is Michael Long in National Review Online, on the release of “The Essential Willie Nelson,” a 41-track compendium that covers Nelson’s long career.
Long’s verdict is that Willie is overrated; he has unquestionably written and performed some great songs, but his work has been uneven and sometimes awful. Long cites some of Willie’s ill-fated collaborations with artists like U2, Aerosmith, and, appallingly, a rap duet with someone called Lil’ Black that apparently has to be heard to be believed.
On the other hand, some of Willie’s collaborations have been inspired, like Ballad of Pancho and Lefty with Merle Haggard and Seven Spanish Angels with Ray Charles. And don’t forget his current #1 hit, performed with Toby Keith: Beer for My Horses. The song is surprisingly warlike for Nelson, although, obviously, very much in character for Keith. Here is the chorus:
“Justice is the one thing you should always find.
“You got to saddle up your boys,
“You got to draw a hard line.
“When the gunsmoke settles, we’ll sing a victory tune.
“We’ll all meet back at the local saloon,
“We’ll raise up our glasses against evil forces,
“Singing: ‘Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses.'”
And while you’re at it, you can check out Jed Babbin on how you have to listen to country music to gauge the national mood:
“This new American mood is something I haven’t experienced before. Out in Real America


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