An unassailable giant of country music he may be, but Willie Nelson has never been shy about embracing other genres or saddling up alongside artists the Nashville cognoscenti might frown upon. For the most part, Heroes follows a recognisable Red Headed Stranger template, but with intriguing diversions among its guest players and choice of covers.
A case in point is Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die, a typically self-referential gallop which, in addition to a no-big-surprise duet vocal by Kris Kristofferson, also finds Snoop Dogg stepping up to the mic. In terms of other people’s songs, Nelson brings a tender campfire croon to Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe and strips Coldplay’s The Scientist right down to the dust on its skeleton, revealing a powerfully affecting ballad that was half hidden amid the glossy bombast of the original.
Long-time outlaw buddy Merle Haggard lends a hand on the opening A Horse Called Music, Nelson revisiting the title track of a 1989 album, and Sheryl Crow gets in on the act for the Southern soul of Come On Up To The House. The most prominent guest, though, is Willie’s son Lukas, lending a familial high harmony to several tracks, most joyously on the western swing of My Window Faces The South.