The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #82889   Message #1520965
Posted By: Shanghaiceltic
13-Jul-05 - 12:10 AM
Thread Name: Willie Nelson, Reggae, and Walmart
Subject: RE: Willie Nelson, Reggae, and Walmart
Here's the review from the Telegraph online. Sounds an intersting album.

Willie Nelson
Countryman
Lost Highway, £13.99

With Johnny Cash's death, the only real candidate to take his place on the rhinestone throne as the King of Country is Willie Nelson. A decade in the making, this album comes with a large weight of expectation and already has a fair baggage of myth attached to it.


The idea for the record was first mooted at a summit in Jamaica in 1995 between Nelson, top producer Don Was (Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones) and Chris Blackwell, Island Records president and the man who introduced reggae, and Bob Marley, to rock audiences.

The idea of creating a reggae-infused country album was irresistible, with both genres dealing with similar themes of everyday struggle, heartbreak and religion. And there had been some good precedents, such as Toots and the Maytals' wonderful reggae version of Country Roads.

By the time Nelson had finished Spirit, perhaps his best record, Blackwell had parted ways with Island, which had been bought by Universal. With no champion, the record went into limbo, only revived when Nelson signed to his current label, Lost Highway.

Nelson has dusted down some of his best-loved songs such as You Left Me a Long Time Ago and Darkness on the Face of the Earth, initially recorded in the early '60s. He takes on Jimmy Cliff's reggae classic The Harder They Come and another tune made famous by Cliff, Sitting Here In Limbo, although the highlight of the album is a Johnny Cash cover, I'm a Worried Man, which completes a circle by having Toots of the Maytals as guest vocalist.

As an adventurous concept, the album is commendable, as are the songs and the vocal performance, but what stops it being the great album we might have hoped for is the production (Don Was, busy with the Stones, handed over the producer's role to Richard Feldman). The jaunty background tracks are sometimes too much at odds with the usually tragic nature of the songs, and the marriage of reggae basslines and country pedal steel guitar seems at times forced.

But Nelson reminds us what a great songwriter he is, and his singing remains understated and coolly charismatic. Peter Culshaw