Willie Nelson’s new album, “My Way,” features both recordings of his crooning, and vocal collaboration with Nelson’s children.
But on the latest album, the 88-year-old singer doesn’t co-write and lyrics are somewhat in a different style than the original. The titles and lyrics in these songs would be better for younger readers. “Funny How Time Slips Away” is a touching, wordless tribute with more of a start-stop feeling with echoes of Burt Bacharach, while “Just Keep On Livin’” seems reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s work with John Lennon on “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” when Lennon is singing.
One standout is “The Night God and Country Music Changed the World,” an otherwise mellow power ballad with some great strumming from Nelson on mandolin. The son Lukas, playing guitar, is a constant standout; when his dad puts his head down on the harmonica, that works too. Lukas also guest’s on “Better,” a rockabilly number that’s not so much hard-rocking as it is bluesy and psychedelic.
Iggy Pop and Jamey Johnson are among those singing duets. Johnson’s “Awake” is an appealing song with him spitting out the words and then singing a melody in the same breath. It’s such a downbeat song, but it’s got a real pep to it; I love rock ‘n roll and still like to go to the clubs.
For “My Way,” Nelson has even contributed his service dog Chucky, now seven, for the cover version of “Walking on a Dream” and the song has a tender feel because he and Nelson are singing.
A few pop covers wind up nowhere on the album; he leaves it to pop artist Shawn Mendes to cover the Lady Gaga/Ariana Grande collaboration “Tryin’ to Break Your Heart.”
I was hoping he’d like some rock versions of the songs, like from Vampire Weekend or Nirvana, but he just doesn’t seem to appreciate a bit of old school music. It’s unfortunate. It can sometimes feel like there’s a generational gap between Nelson’s music and younger folks.
On this new album, it’s also been worth noting the collaborations between Nelson and his offspring. Nelson (the father) lets his son give a thoughtful introduction to “Careless Whisper” and he’s played guitar on every song on the CD (no matter how many covers he contributes). He’s still got it.