Like Old Man River, Willie Nelson just keeps rolling along at the age of 80. During his nearly six-decade career, he has released over 100 albums, which have sold tens-of-millions of copies. He has now returned with his third album of new material released during the past 16 months.
To All The Girls is an album of newly recorded duets with female singers. While the 18 women who participated in the project are mostly country performers, there are some who cross over into different styles; Norah Jones, Mavis Staples, and Sheryl Crow.
His voice is still a fine instrument and sounds a little stronger than on his past couple of releases. It has acquired a nice patina and he has always been an excellent partner when participating on duets. He has the ability to mold his style and sounds with voices that are very different from his own.
A wonderfully interesting track is “Always On My Mind” with Carrie Underwood. The subtlety of his own voice runs counterpoint to her booming pop vocals. Their approaches may be dissimilar but it works well.
There are a number of highlights on the album. “No Mas Amour” with Alison Krauss has a Latin American feel as it just meanders along. “Grandma’s Hands” travels in a different direction with the unique voice of Mavis Staples and some creative interaction between Nelson’s guitar picking and Mickey Raphael’s harmonica work. Emmylou Harris helps to transform Bruce Springsteen’s “Dry Lightning” into a song of poignant beauty. He joins together with his daughter Paula to rework the Creedence Clearwater classic. “Have You Ever Seen The Rain.” It emerges as a sad presentation.
Some of the other participants include the ever-present Dolly Parton, Rosanne Cash, Shelby Lynne, Wynonna Judd, Miranda Lambert, and Loretta Lynn where Nelson takes the place of Conway Twitty on “Somewhere Between.”
To All The Girls takes its place as one of Willie Nelson’s better releases. It was thoughtfully constructed as the songs and guest artists match well. Like a fine wine. Willie Nelson seems to be aging well.