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When you think Willie Nelson, you think badass – or at least you should. After sixty studio albums, becoming co-chair for the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, heading the genre known as ‘outlaw country’ since the end of the 1960s that stuck it to the conservative restrictions of the Nashville sound, and after 56 years in the business, Nelson still has musical chops. Heroes proves it.
A crafty and blatant nod to Nelson’s support for the legalization of marijuana, “Roll Me Up” is a knee-slapping, swinging classic country track. Singing “just roll me up and smoke me when I die”, Nelson’s voice has that ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge’ demeanor that makes even conservatives want to dance along. With some saloon-style piano playing and some talented harmonica wielding, this track is nothing but good time fun. The kicker of this track is Nelson’s collaborator, none other than Snoop Dogg himself. Who says country and rap can’t see eye to eye? Along with Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson, “Roll Me Up” is a group of friends passing the good times around the camp fire in lyrical form.
Another swinging track, “My Window Faces The South”, a collaboration with his son Lukas, features some swarthy guitar licks and a cheery vocal duet that ends track with the duo breaking into chuckles. Foot-tapping percussion as well as understated piano and accenting harmonica leave the guitar solo that takes place mid-track to be the song’s main feature.
Slowing it down a bit, Heroes also has its fair share of crooning down tempo cuts. “A Horse Called Music”, probably not-so-coincidently named after Nelson’s 1989 album release, is a song that channels a forlorn cowboy riding solo after the heartbreak of losing his girl and thusly turning to something that will never leave him: his music. Another memorable slow track, “Come On Up To The House” again features Nelson’s son as well as the talents of Sheryl Crow covering this Tom Waits cut. Laden with organ stylings, this track echoes the right amount of passion with beautiful harmony between the male and female vocals. Nelson even takes a crack at Coldplay during the length of Heroes, doing a somehow more stripped version of “The Scientist”. The beauty of this cover track would easily be its simplicity and Nelson’s weathered vocals as opposed to the younger, cleaner sound of Chris Martin.
Heroes takes the Willie Nelson you know and love and along with some unexpected collaborators makes a great record. Nelson is currently on tour in support of Heroes and will be stopping in Cohasset, MA at the South Shore Music Circus on June 22 and Hyannis, MA at the Cape Cod Melody Tent on June 21.