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Willie Nelson & Friends

The Great Divide – 2002 (Lost Highway)

Reviewed by Tamara Bunnell

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CDs by Willie Nelson & Friends

Willie Nelson has never been afraid to veer from the narrow path. Throughout his career, Nelson's divergent interests and talents have led him in varied and sometimes surprising directions. The result has been a phenomenal body of work, and icon status. With this latest release, Willie does more of what he does best; chart new territory while maintaining a distinctive style.

It is a collaborative work. Five songs are vocal duets, and all but one song were written by other artists. Producer Matt Serletic's influence cannot be understated. He was given free rein regarding which songs, artists and sounds were included. Serletic's recent success with Santana is well documented, and he brings the same skill and foresight here. Rob Thomas (Matchbox 20) wrote three of songs, and Bernie Taupin (of Elton John fame) also authored three. In fact, this release is an all-star parade, a veritable who's who of country and rock fame - Lee Ann Womack on "Mendocino County Line," Kid Rock on "Last Stand in Open Country," Bonnie Raitt on "You Remain" and Sheryl Crow on "Be There for You")

Make no mistake about it, however. This is a Willie Nelson CD, and it is one of his best. Nelson's emotionally rich voice and one of a kind phrasing are the central elements which drive this release, powerfully fusing the varied elements together. It appears that, at 68, Willie Nelson is once again in his prime.