Review of Willie Nelson’s “Stars and Guitars”


I must admit that I’ve become a Willie Nelson fan as he has escaped the shadow of his IRS run-in and has enjoyed a resurgence recording new hit singles and wearing GAP denim. Suddenly, Willie seems to be the venerable “featuring” artist appearing on the latest offerings by numerous pop and country stars. Now, Willie has called in his favors and presents a live cd featuring these artists with whom he has appeared and many more.
The list of artists appearing on this live cd, Stars and Guitars, is top notch. I knew I had to buy it when I saw Norah Jones’ name on it. But in addition to Norah, artists such as Sheryl Crow, Rob Thomas, Jon Bon Jovi, Keith Richards, Vince Gill, Ryan Adams, and Emmylou Harris also appear, with whom Willie performs a mix of his songs and those of his guests. This variety makes for an album that can appeal to a variety of musical tastes, despite a few misses. There are plenty of highlights on this cd. Willie’s is the perfect male voice to complement Norah Jones’ performance on “Lonestar.” Similarly, Rob Thomas’ distinctive sound was a great choice for “Maria,” especially because the strings and horns utilized on “Maria” are elements used in many of Matchbox 20’s own songs and help make Thomas a great fit for the song. Ryan Adams, Keith Richards, and Hank Williams III join Willie for a performance of “Dead Flowers” that, for lack of a better word, rocks. There are many more great tracks and collaborations throughout the album.

That being said, there are also some that leave the listener wondering what just happened. While I generally enjoy Toby Keith’s work, including his duet with Willie on Keith’s latest release, here his powerful voice winds up overmatching Willie on “Good Hearted Woman.” Perhaps this has to do with the imprecision of live recording, but it almost sounds like a bootleg recording. Aaron Neville’s rendition of “Stardust” is nice–I love the song–but Willie didn’t seem to be involved in any way and the style seemed out of place in the middle of this cd. Towards the end of the cd, Willie does a rather unenthusiastic “On the Road Again,” but perhaps he’s just out of gas as a result of the excitement of the concert up to that point.

One thing’s for sure…Willie’s on the road again, making music with his friends, and most of it is sweet music indeed.

Bobby Allison-Gallimore is a law student at the University of Kansas. Like Willie, he experienced a “slight problem” involving the IRS this year. It was, however, resolved in his favor. He comments on news, politics, and culture on his website,

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