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CD: Willie Nelson,Moment Of Forever
Most 74 year olds Texans would be content to wile away their twilight years sat on the front porch chewing tobacco, with maybe the odd trip to the local rodeo or diner for the more adventurous. Not so the legend that is Willie Hugh Nelson, who, despite being a full seven years older than Cliff Richard, continues to record surprisingly good albums when most of his contemporaries have long since succumbed to the ravages of Father Time. Like his fellow American icon the late Johnny Cash, Nelson has been revitalised in his dotage by collaborating with a name producer (in this case country star Kenny Chesney) on a series of imaginative cover versions, seasoned with a liberal sprinkling of the singer's own new compositions. Although Moment Of Forever is somewhat less radical in its choice of artists to interpret (nothing on it comes close to Cash's majestic Hurt or One) there's still much to enjoy in this assured and varied collection.
Interestingly, Nelson's most ambitious foray into the contemporary, a pleasingly dark rendition of Dave Matthews's Gravedigger, is probably the record's high point, with the septuagenarian's portentous drawl accurately capturing the song's lyrical bleakness. Elsewhere, the covers are safer but impeccably delivered, although Nelson fails to convincingly convey the eloquent anger of Randy Newman's Louisiana and his stab at God bothering era-Dylan's proselytising, overrated Gotta Serve Somebody singularly fails the silk purse from sow's ear test.
As it happens, the great Bob is another venerable colossus to have undergone something of a critical rebirth in the past decade, and much of Moment Of Forever shares the relaxed, nostalgic glow of his Time Out Of Mind or Love And Theft. Both men can also still summon up the occasional reminder of their stellar songwriting past, as Nelson does here with the wistful, elegiac Always Now.
The album closes with an early studio runthrough of You Don't Think I'm Funny Anymore which ends with Willie's band in fits of giggles as their leader utters the slightly smutty final line. He may be old enough to be Amy Winehouse's grandfather, but clearly Nelson's still having a blast. So while Moment Of Forever is pleasant rather than exceptional, there's no reason for this particularly perky pensioner to call it a day and retire to his ranch just yet. --Chris White
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