One of the biggest boons of the Live at Billy Bob's Texas series of recordings has been the sheer sonic quality of their recordings, combined with loose, unpretentious performances by the artists contracted. By these standards it makes sense that a Willie Nelson date at Billy Bob's would be something very special. And special it is, but not in any way fans would welcome or expect. This is easily the most substandard and poorly recorded officially released live date of Nelson's entire career. While that's a drag, it would be forgivable if this weren't his most uninspired and cynical performance on record as well. Nelson and his band run through their hits as if they were a medley without inspiration or regard for a fanatical audience, and no regard for one another as musicians -- timing is off, instruments are out of key, vocal harmonies are all but nonexistent. This set seems to be a showcase for what a "great" guitar player Nelson is. His nearly atonally tuned acoustic is so loud it dwarfs the rest of the band. To make it worse, there is a bonus DVD that proves the point, displaying a bored-looking Family band whose members can't wait to get off the stage. This is inexcusable from a veteran like Nelson, who has been undergoing a creative renaissance these past eight years. It is an insult and a betrayal to loyal fans; consumers should avoid it like the plague.
Live at Billy Bob's Texas Review
by Thom Jurek
Track Listing - Disc 1