Outlaws and Angels is the audio counterpart to the Willie Nelson Special that aired on cable television in the summer of 2004. Here, Nelson is surrounded by friends who also happen to be fans. Among them are Keith Richards, Lucinda Williams, Merle Haggard, Carole King, Al Green, the Holmes Brothers, Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Shelby Lynne, Jerry Lee Lewis, Los Lonely Boys, Toots Hibbert, Joe Walsh, Ben Harper, Rickie Lee Jones, and Lee Ann Womack. Interestingly, Bob Dylan, who was part of the broadcast, is absent here, though he has top billing on the advert for the DVD that comes in the package. That said, this set is for the hardcore only: the first irritating thing is that the announcer for the evening introduces each guest -- sometimes in the middle of a song! While this could have been easily edited, the fact that it was left in for the audio CD is inexcusable. Secondly, the material, while compelling, is rarely executed in such a way. The ease that Haggard and Nelson display with one another is rarely achieved elsewhere. Williams' duet with Nelson on "Overtime" is truly beautiful, and the pair share an affinity for delivering ballads without overstatement. Likewise, Keith Richards' appearance with Nelson on "We Had It All carries with it real authority, and Nelson's own delivery on the tune is stellar and deeply and oddly, Richards' own vocal, despite his limited range, complements Willie's well in a roughshod way. But these are the clear highlights. The rest, with Haggard, Lewis, Kid Rock, and Richards, is just plain embarrassing. This is a mixed bag to be sure, but it's not without some charm. If only the presentation were better.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek