Willie Nelson

To All the Girls... – 2013 (Sony)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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At 80, it would be easy for Willie Nelson to take a step back and rest on his laurels a bit. Instead, the country legend just released his third studio album in only a 16-month period, a new 18-song collection of duets. You might think it would be hard to get motivated to hit the studio at his age, but when you consider the talented group of female vocalists with whom Nelson collaborated on this album, how could he not be excited?

The brilliant list of collaborators is a veritable who's who of great singers. Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Mavis Staples, Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss are worth the price of admission alone, but when you throw in Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Wynonna Judd, Shelby Lynne, Norah Jones, Carrie Underwood, Brandi Carlile, Miranda Lambert, Lily Meola, Melonie Cannon, Tina Rose, The Secret Sisters and his own sister Paula Nelson, you have a wealth of riches.

Nelson has always been one of country's best crooners and his duet with Dolly Parton on From Here To The Moon And Back, a song she originally penned for the film "Joyful Noise," proves that he's still got it. Nelson's phrasing manages to be both smooth and nuanced, and you get the sense that this could have easily been a great solo effort on a different album. Regardless, Parton's contributions are great - her instantly-recognizable voice taking the high road while Nelson takes the low.

Far Away Places, his collaboration with Sheryl Crow, is another memorable moment. The laid-back arrangement is both classic and contemporary in feel without ever becoming campy.

Alison Krauss' smoky and haunting contributions make the Mexican-tinged No Mas Amor an instant classic, while Shelby Lynne's classic country voice is an ideal companion to help Nelson deliver the swinging Till The End Of The World - two minutes of pure country perfection.

Turning 18 collaborations into one singular artistic expression is a real challenge and the broad variety of vocalists and songs ultimately leads to a lack of cohesion. That said, there isn't really a stinker among the bunch, and Nelson devotees will find a lot to love here.