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Album Spotlight: Willie Nelson, ‘To All the Girls’

To All the Girls
Sony Legacy

Willie Nelson‘s scratchy tenor and familiar guitar are the two constants on his new album of duets called ‘To All the Girls.’ The project is an enormous collection of female talent — mostly country, but some not, most well-known, but a few still relatively unheard of. There’s a pleasing variety, yet none steer too far from what Nelson has released in the last half-decade.

Duets with lesser known singers stand above those with current superstars like Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. ‘It Won’t Be Very Long’ with the Secret Sisters features harmonies one doesn’t soon forget. Newcomer Lily Meola begins ‘Will You Remember Mine.’ The Hawaii-born singer is rightly compared to Ella Fitzgerald, and vocally she overshadows Nelson. He’s glad to let her do it, however.

Loretta Lynn‘s ‘Somewhere Between’ is another compelling pairing. Both singers have classic voices that have been worn by age like a beach is changed by the surf — not better or worse, just different. Alison Krauss, another classic vocalist who’s still in her prime, guides Nelson through the Spanish-influenced ‘No Mas Amor.’

‘To All the Girls’ plays like a tribute concert, with the individual events overshadowing the sound coming from the speakers. The cast of musical superstars Nelson has put together (Sheryl Crow, Mavis Staples, Norah Jones and Emmylou Harris are a few others) includes some of the greatest of all time. No one song is going to be remembered more than the other 17. Nelson took time to express his complete artistic vision with these dozen-and-a-half ballads and mid-tempo swingers.

Tracks to Remember: ‘It Won’t Be Very Long,’ ‘No Mas Amor,’ ‘Walkin” and ‘Dry Lightning’

Under the Covers: A couple songs like ‘Always on My Mind’ and ‘Bloody Mary Morning’ are Nelson originals (or at least songs he made famous), but most on ‘To All the Girls’ are covers. Among the tracks chosen include hits originally sung by Waylon Jennings, Bing Crosby, Suzy Bogguss, Bruce Springsteen, Kitty Wells and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Did You Know?: Dolly Parton was already very familiar with ‘From Here to the Moon and Back,’ the song she sings with Nelson. She wrote it and performed it with Kris Kristofferson for the soundtrack to ‘Joyful Noise,’ her 2012 movie with Queen Latifah.

Next: See the Best Albums of 2013 (So Far)

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