Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price
Last of the Breed, Vol. 1 & 2
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2007, Volume 14, #4
Written by John Metzger
Like Carlos Santana, Willie Nelson has an annoying habit of working with anyone and everyone who happens to cross his path. Most recently, he contributed to Mariah Carey’s I’ve Got a Right to Dream from the forthcoming film Tennessee. Nelson, however, makes it remarkably easy to forgive his misguided dalliances with pop stars whenever he concocts albums that sound as pure as Last of the Breed, Vol. 1 & 2. With veteran producer (and Monument Records founder) Fred Foster at his side, Nelson — along with longtime pals Merle Haggard and Ray Price — succeeded in sculpting a two-disc, 22-track endeavor that — like last year’s You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker — beautifully captures the magic of a bygone era.
Aside from a re-configured rendition of Nelson’s Back to Earth and a pair of newly penned tracks from Haggard (If I Ever Get Lucky and Sweet Jesus), the trio largely focuses on material that was culled from the annals of classic country: Harlan Howard’s Heartaches by the Number, Floyd Tillman’s I Love You So Much It Hurts, Lefty Frizzell’s Mom and Dad’s Waltz, Gene Autry’s That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine, Cindy Walker’s Night Watch, and Leon Payne’s I Love You Because, among them. Employing a backing band that features steel guitarist Buddy Emmons, Texas Playboys fiddler Johnny Gimble, and gospel group The Jordanaires — the same team of ringers that assisted on You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker — Foster wisely opted to surround the vocals of Nelson, Price, and Haggard with simple, easy-going arrangements that are suitably warm and nostalgic. The well-timed appearances by Vince Gill (Heartaches by the Number) and Kris Kristofferson (Why Me Lord) further augment the familial, down-home charm that is conveyed by the set.
There’s little doubt that Nelson, Haggard, and Price as well as their assembled entourage could have walked quite sleepily through the recording of a project such as this without lending much thought to what it would become. In minimizing their studio time, however, the collective captured a first-take ambience that leaves the entirety of the album sounding wonderfully fresh and vibrant. While Last of the Breed, Vol. 1 & 2 could have used a little more oomph to keep it from settling so comfortably into its mid-tempo gait, it, nonetheless, is a superbly crafted affair that serves as a welcome reminder of country music’s rich heritage.
50th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Country Collaboration with Vocals
Of Further Interest...
Last of the Breed, Vol. 1 & 2 is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box