On paper, the pairing of WILLIE NELSON and producer T Bone Burnett seems like a potential train wreck. Though both can get amazing results, their working methods couldn’t be more different. Burnett’s a painstaking micromanager, while Willie’s the master of the offhand; you won’t find him hanging around for multiple takes. Yet their collaboration, simply titled Country Music (Rounder), succeeds through compromise. Burnett sent Willie a list of classics and obscurities and assembled an A-list Nashville band, which included Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, and Ronnie McCoury. The results have a live-in-the-studio sound that’s closer to Burnett’s fastidious creations than Willie’s more slapdash affairs. The picking is first-rate, the songs (including Willie’s “Man With the Blues,” Bob Wills’s “Gotta Walk Alone,” and a wonderful version of the gospel tune “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down”) are terrific, and Willie seems to relish the material. Nice stuff, though one could argue that any Willie album called Country Music should include a few more songs written by the man himself.
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