Willie Nelson - The Border
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The Border (Sony Legacy, 2024)

Willie Nelson

Reviewed by George Hauenstein

Willie Nelson has released more than 150 albums in his career, including four in the past two years. All this while approaching and surpassing the age of 90. Of all his many solo recordings, "The Border" ranks as one of his best. The songs are fresh, sincere, and full of energy and have many of the elements that fans expect from Ol' Willie - his unmistakable vocals, the trademark lead guitar work on his iconic axe, Trigger, and harmonica support from his 50-plus year bandmate, Mickey Raphael. All this plus impeccable backing including terrific steel and electric guitar from Bobby Terry.

The song selection is quite varied. The title cut, co-written by Rodney Crowell, is very topical and drenched in reality, and tells a story from the perspective of a border agent. "Made in Texas" is an up-tempo, Western swing number that extols the virtues and the pride that comes with growing up in the Lone Star State. As Willie puts it, "you can always tell a Texan, but you can't tell him much." "Hank's Guitar" is one of best cuts and is a tribute of sorts to Hank Williams. The song is very touching in the way it details Hank's final days from the perspective of his six-string guitar.

"I Wrote This Song For You" and "Nobody Knows Me Like You," written by bluegrass songsmith Larry Cordle and Mike Reid, respectively, fit perfectly into Nelson's song delivery. Willie and long-time producer Buddy Cannon wrote 4 of the 10 songs, including "Once Upon a Yesterday," which like "Hank's Guitar," pays tribute to country music legends Kitty Wells, Roy Acuff and Hank and the debt we owe them for setting the table for artists like him.

For a 91-year-old artist, Nelson sounds great throughout. His ragged, gravely voice is even more so here. But why wouldn't it be? "The Border" is proof that - like he's been doing throughout his career - Willie Nelson still has a lot to say with his music.

CDs by Willie Nelson

The Border, 2024 Bluegrass, 2023 Don't Know A Thing About Love, 2023 A Beautiful Time, 2022 That's Life, 2021 First Rose of Spring, 2020 Ride Me Back Home, 2019 My Way, 2018 Last Man Standing, 2018 Willie's Stash Volume 2, 2017 God's Problem Child, 2017 Summertime Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, 2016 Band of Brothers, 2014 To All the Girls..., 2013 Let's Face the Music and Dance, 2013 Freedom, 2012 Remember Me Vol. 1, 2011 Country Music, 2010 American Classic, 2009 Lost Highway, 2009 Naked Willie, 2009 One Hell of a Ride, 2008 Moment of Forever, 2008 Songbird, 2006 Live From Austin, TX, 2006 Songs of Cindy Walker, 2006 You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker, 2006

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