Willie Nelson, ‘The Great Divide’


The Great Divide
Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson never stops surprising us.  From poppy chart-breaking duets to honkytonk to movie soundtracks to straight, classic country, Nelson’s not afraid to tackle anything musically.

But despite all of his surprises, ‘The Great Divide’ still manages to shock.  It’s an album that shatters musical barriers and his own stereotype while proving he’s one of the most innovative performers to ever walk the earth.

Taking a cue from Santana, ‘The Great Divide’ is an all-star event, but unlike ‘Supernatural,’ where guest vocalists help provide the basis for Santana’s  fret work, Nelson is definitely out front here, only assisted by the fellow superstars he enlists.

The result is overwhelming, with all 12 tracks offering diverse experiences but all containing Nelson’s unique sound and fine ability to tell a story.

While only one song is written by Nelson — the moody, stellar title track with guitarist Jackie King — the album is trademark Nelson.

The opening track ‘Maria:  Shut Up and Kiss Me’ with matchbox twenty Rob Thomas contains a simple melody and catchy chorus that has enough energy to become a new anthem for Nelson.  Lee Ann Womack show sup for a great duet on ‘Mendocino County Line’; Sheryl Crow helps make ‘Be There For You’ the most grandiose tune here; and Bonnie Raitt, as always, comes through on the unforgettable ‘You Remain.’

While Brian McKnight can also be found on ‘Don’t Fade Away,’ the surprise of the year comes on the album’s best track, ‘Last Stand in Open Country,’ with — prepare yourself — Kid Rock, who adds some backup singing (not rapping) for an electrifying tune that stands as the best rock song Nelson may have ever recorded.

Too bad ‘The Great Divide’ was released in January.  By the time the Grammys arrive next year and the critics roll out their top 10 lists, ‘The Great Divide’ may not be remembered.  That’s unfortunate because this latest offering from this musical pioneer is about as good as it gets.

— Scott Cronick

Track List:

Maria (Shut Up And Kiss Me)
Last Stand In Open Country
Won’t Catch Me Cryin’
Be There For You
The Great Divide
Just Dropped In (To see what condition my condition was in)
This Face
Don’t Fade Away
Time After Time
Recollection Phoenix
You Remain

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