American Classic

Willie Nelson may be America's greatest balladeer, capable of making any song sound like a standard. For all his genius, Nelson can be kind of lazy, and this disc — a sequel of sorts to his beloved 1978 standards collection, Stardust — he only occasionally sounds like he's trying. Nelson wrings pathos out of "Come Rain or Come Shine" and plays the dirty old man to perfection in "Baby, It's Cold Outside," drawling come-ons to Norah Jones. But his band pushes the music into airless cocktail-jazz territory, and Nelson often sounds glib and unengaged. Nelson can swing a tune like "Fly Me to the Moon" in his sleep — and here, alas, he does.

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