Like his contemporaries Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and George Jones, Willie Nelson has managed to craft brilliant albums that live up to a legendary career, and The Great Divide is certainly in that

Like his contemporaries Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and George Jones, Willie Nelson has managed to craft brilliant albums that live up to a legendary career, and The Great Divide is certainly in that category. The record often pairs the artist with much younger stars while keeping the focus very much on Nelson's trademark singing and guitar playing. "Maria (Shut Up and Kiss Me)," with Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas, is a rhythmic Mexicali delight, and "Last Stand in Open Country," with Kid Rock, is big, bold, and muscular. A gorgeous duet with Lee Ann Womack works better than the somewhat muddled "Be There for You" with Sheryl Crow, and "You Remain" (featuring Bonnie Raitt) is understated perfection. Nelson imbues the title cut with a sense of foreboding, and he puts his stamp on inspired and well-conceived covers of the trippy "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" and Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." The record's centerpiece is the soaring "This Face," an introspective piece tailor-made for Nelson's "worn and lived in" visage.—RW