Stars & Guitars

Recorded live at a Willie fete in Nashville's venerated Ryman Auditorium, this scruffy but heartfelt tribute (to the red-headed stranger himself) boasts an eclectic list of guests that ranges from Jon

RELEASE DATE: Nov. 5

Recorded live at a Willie fete in Nashville's venerated Ryman Auditorium, this scruffy but heartfelt tribute (to the red-headed stranger himself) boasts an eclectic list of guests that ranges from Jon Bon Jovi to Ray Price. There is plenty to love here, often highlighting Nelson's superb songwriting chops, gutstring guitar, and behind-the-beat phrasing. Toby Keith comes off appropriately Waylon-esque on "Good Hearted Woman," and "Maria (Shut Up and Kiss Me)"—with Rob Thomas and Bill Evans—swings more soulfully than on the studio version. Bon Jovi and Willie turn in a stirring "Always on my Mind"; "Night Life," with a still-vital Ray Price, is cool country lounge; and Norah Jones nails a swaying "Lonestar." Other treatments don't fare as well: The normally fiery "Whiskey River" comes off surprisingly tepid with Sheryl Crow. On the other hand, "Dead Flowers" with Ryan Adams, Hank Williams III, and Keith Richards is a ragged delight, and "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground," with Patty Griffin, is simply sublime. Willie remains the coolest.—RW