Willie Nelson

The Great Divide

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Like most star-studded superstar comeback albums of the late '80s, '90s, and 2000s, Willie Nelson's The Great Divide isn't meant for longtime fans of the artists, or even the artists themselves; it's meant for listeners who always liked the idea or persona of the featured artist, but never liked the artist's music. That's certainly the case with The Great Divide, which finds Willie Nelson inexplicably recast as an adult alternative artist, singing songs written by Rob Thomas -- who, not coincidentally, led Carlos Santana to the biggest hit of his career in 1999 -- and other professional tunesmiths, all corralled by producer Matt Serietic. Since professionals are involved -- including Nelson himself, who gives an admirable vocal performance throughout -- this is an accomplished, classy album, but it sure as hell isn't a Willie Nelson album. The closest it comes is on the title track, the only song co-written by Nelson himself, and the Bernie Taupin co-written numbers, including a pretty good deliberate ballad called "Let Stand in Open Country" featuring Kid Rock. The rest is radio-ready adult pop, produced fairly well but not inherently interesting, no matter how professional it is. And that's the problem with the record; sure, it may get those who like Nelson the star, but if it alienates those who love his music, including his legions of quiet masterpieces from The Troublemaker to Rainbow Connection, then what's the point?

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