Not a blues, reggae, alternative rock, or children’s CD, not a TV-special soundtrack of endless hackneyed duets nor a just-another-night-on-the-road live tape but an honest-to-god WILLIE NELSON recording. You’d have to go back to 1998’s Daniel Lanois—produced Teatro or, better yet, 1996’s Spirit to find a time when Nelson actually showed up to play something other than golf. IT ALWAYS WILL BE (Lost Highway) begins with a title track that’s a punch of pure sentiment, the kind only Nelson can pull off with a straight face. It’s his best song in ages, and from there it only gets better. He sings with Lucinda Williams (the new duet darling), covers Jimmy Day and Tom Waits, hits a perfect note on “Tired” (by Toby Keith, no less), and wraps up with his own 75-word love letter: “It’s the only place for me/ Where my spirit can be free/ Texas.”