Willie Nelson

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 August, 2005, 12:00am

Willie Nelson


Countryman


(Lost Highway)


If you did a double-take at the sight of a Rasta-coloured cannabis leaf-emblazoned cover bearing the name of one of country and western's biggest names, you mustn't have heard Willie Nelson's sublime collaboration with Toots & the Maytals last year. Unfortunately, those who did hear Still is Still Moving to Me will have higher hopes than this disc delivers.


It's been a decade in the making, but not much experimentation seems to have gone on in that time. It was the minimalist reggae and country pairing that made Still a winner. Yet this album opens with the kind of lightweight calypso that naysayers would have guessed it was full of. Things do get better though. Most are written or co-written by Nelson and his regular country collaborators, but it's one of his two Jimmy Cliff covers that first impresses.


The Harder They Come could have been a kitsch disaster. Instead, incorporating mostly gentle acoustic guitar, some great harmonica work and laidback gospel-like female backing singers, this is a highlight.


But a few of Nelson's own tracks, infused with resonating dobro guitar and his solid vocal delivery, stand up well. Darkness on the Face of the Earth weaves through a dub reggae vibe, but it's a ridiculously brief two minutes and 15 seconds. Also noteworthy is the polished soulful lament One in a Row.


The tracks that work here are great hybrids, but as the culmination of 10 years' experimentation, it should be better and more varied.