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Willie Nelson & Friends

Stars & Guitars – 2002 (Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Tom Netherland

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CDs by Willie Nelson & Friends

Country's duet king strikes again. Expect few surprises, though. After all, how could the man who dueted with Julio Iglesias and Aerosmith catch us off guard now?

With this 18-track live offering culled from the "Willie Nelson & Friends" show at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium earlier this year, Nelson adds another 20 or so singers to his file of duet partners. Best among the duets, Keith Richards and Hank Williams III on "Dead Flowers." Worst among them, Ryan Adams on "Dead Flowers."

And Ryan Adams on "The Harder They Come." Alt.-country's most overrated burnout carries dead weight while accompanying the country heavyweight. Likewise, R&B crooner Brian McKnight on "Don't Fade Away" makes one wish he would have just faded away.

On the other hand, both Aaron Neville ("Stardust") and Ray Price ("Night Life") would wow the most critical of ears. Same goes, perhaps surprisingly, Toby Keith in assuming Waylon Jennings' lines on "Good Hearted Woman." Hey, the man can sing. He sounds inspired, as does Vince Gill on "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain."

Then again it's not everyday when a singer gets a chance to sing with Willie Nelson. Call him the duet king, and for good reason.