40 Best Country Albums of 2014

The greatest statements from the year's outsiders, small town heroes and American middle class

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Willie Nelson, 'Band of Brothers'

10. Willie Nelson, 'Band of Brothers'

A set of largely self-penned songs by an icon who remains, at core, a songwriter. "The Wall" is a small masterpiece of metaphoric concision about self-destruction; "Wives and Girlfriends" is a knowing old dog's confessional. "We write bridges, we cross 'em and burn 'em," he croaks venerably on "The Songwriters," the record's set piece; "teach lessons but don't bother to learn 'em." It's a winning lyrical conceit — though in truth, Nelson's probably learned more than we'll ever know. W.H.

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