Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I recently wrote about how I was looking forward to Willie Nelson's new album, Moment Of Forever. I should have ammended that: in the past 10-15 years, Willie has put out some really inspiried albums (2004's It Will Always Be is one of my favorite albums by him, 2006's You Don't Know Me: The Songs Of Cindy Walker is great, and the Ryan Adams-produced Songbird from 2006 was really strong). Others don't work as well, like the pop-leaning The Great Divide from 2002, or the blues album Milk Cow Blues from 2000. The reggae album Countryman from 2005 was just goofy.

Moment Of Forever was produced by current country superstar Kenny Chesney, who collaborated with Willie on a one-off thing at some point, and who Willie liked so much, he wanted to do a whole album with him. To me, it's kind of like if Jon Bon Jovi produced an album for Chuck Berry. Jon clearly regards Chuck Berry's music highly, but does his audience really care?

I've read some kind of harsh and apathetic reviews of the album. I actually would give it a B or a B-. The opening track, "Over You Again," is a new song by Willie, it's him doing what he does best. The title track is a cover a song by Willie's buddy/sometimes bandmate Kris Kristofferson, and that one works too. The third song, though, was written by "Big Kenny" of Big & Rich. It's cool, but just doesn't sound natural. At this point in Willie's career, his music shouldn't sound forced. His version of Randy Newman's "Louisana" (written in the '70s, even though it sounds like it's about Katrina) is great. I thought that the choice to cover Dave Matthews' solo song "Gravedigger" was an inspiried choice, but I think the recording is a bit too bombastic. That works for Dave, for Willie I would've gone a bit more acoustic.

Ultimately, I think Kenny Chesney (and his production partner Buddy Cannon) did a good job. Clearly, the label wanted to take one more shot of returning Willie to the country mainstream, but Chesney/Cannon probably knew that there is little or no chance of that happening. They got some great moments out of him.

I recently wrote about Willie's collaboration with Calexico on the I'm Not There soundtrack: they did a phenomonal "Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)." Here's hoping someone puts up the cash for them to do a full-on album next time.

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