Willie Nelson, "Country Music"
The prospect of Willie Nelson doing country music is like a homecoming for some fans, but his latest release, "Country Music," isn't a trip back to "Whiskey River." Helmed by producer T Bone Burnett, this is front-porch, rural and rustic country music. Nelson is perfect in this setting, however, as he brings his weathered but expressive pipes to percussion-less arrangements of such gems as Ernest Tubb's "Seaman's Blues," Merle Travis' miner's lament "Dark As a Dungeon" and the smooth stride of Bob Wills' "Gotta Walk Alone." Amid august company that includes musicians Mickey Raphael, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale and Ronnie McCoury, Nelson also digs into pensive treatments of the traditional "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" and Hank Williams' "House of Gold," a three-hanky version of "My Baby's Gone" and a rich rendition of "Satisfied Mind." But he has some fun on more upbeat fare like Doc Watson's "Freight Train Boogie" and Bill Mack's "Drinking Champagne." --Gary Graff