By Gillian G. Gaar
Willie Nelson teams up with a lot of interesting folks on his new album, right from the opening track, which has him singing with Merle Haggard on a poignant version of Wayne Carson’s “A Horse Called Music.”
There are some more unexpected pairings, too. Finding Kris Kristofferson on the rowdy, high-spirited rocker “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” (the album’s original title, until the more sedate “Heroes” was chosen) isn’t a great surprise, but did you ever think you’d see Snoop Dogg appear on a Willie Nelson record? Or that Nelson would cover a Pearl Jam song? (“Just Breathe,” from PJ’s 2009 album “Backspacer”).
The album’s other special guests include Jamey Johnson, and Nelson’s own sons, Lukas and Micah (Lukas also writes four of the album’s tracks). Sheryl Crow also comes aboard, joining Willie and Lukas on a cover of Tom Waits’ “Come On Up To The House,” which, in keeping with most of the album, is smooth and slow.
This is largely an album of expressiveness, heartfelt emotions, and more than a little sadness (as seen in the title “Every Time He Drinks He Thinks Of Her,” for example) though Nelson does let his crew kick up their heels on occasion, not only on “Roll Me Up,” but also on “My Window Faces the South” and “Home in San Antone.” Nelson sounds alternately relaxed with and energized by his fellow musicians, making this a warm and welcoming record.