Willie Nelson - Moment of Forever

Willie Nelson
Moment of Forever

(Lost Highway)

First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2008, Volume 15, #2

Written by John Metzger

Thu February 7, 2008, 08:15 AM CST


Willie Nelson always has been a freewheeling spirit, and in defiance of what is now the norm, the older he has gotten, the more restless he seems to become. Itís almost as if, since he became eligible for membership in the AARP, he can sense the end of the road lurking somewhere in the distance. Rather than dejectedly walking toward it, however, he instead decided to take his time and see every sight along the way. There simply is no other explanation for the wide expanses that, for better or for worse, he has traversed in recent years. As he has moved from reggae (Countryman) to Western swing (You Donít Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker) and from atmospheric alt-country (Songbird) to a return to his classicist roots (Last of the Breed, Vol. 1 & 2), Nelson likely has left more than a few fans suffering severe cases of whiplash.

Every so often, though, Nelson feels the need to ground himself by taking a more mainstream-minded approach to his work. While Moment of Forever, his latest project, forsakes many of the guests that clung to his side on It Always Will Be, the outing nonetheless is enveloped in a sheen that is similarly glossy. This time, Nelson turned to the production team of Kenny Chesney and Buddy Cannon for assistance, and within just a few days of the albumís release, much was made about the oddball union that brought a renegade together with insiders from Nashville. Some of the criticism that has been leveled at the set is warranted. There simply is no disputing the fact that Nelsonís distinctiveness occasionally is lost within the arena-ready context of the endeavor. The potency of the Kris Kristofferson-penned title track, for example, is tempered somewhat by the slickness of its arrangement, and several tunes ó like Dave Matthewsí Gravedigger and Chesneyís Iím Alive ó have to struggle so hard to find breathing room that they nearly derail Moment of Forever completely.

Nevertheless, even with these caveats in mind, Moment of Forever is a successful excursion. For as laid-back as he is, Nelson certainly has learned a thing or two since he recorded Always on My Mind. As a result, he no longer allows his personality to be constrained quite so tightly, and most of the highlights on Moment of Forever stem from the simple fact that he, Chesney, and Cannon had a tremendously good time while recording the outing. Say whatever it is that must be said about the preposterousness of Big & Richís The Bob Song. With its spoken word introduction and its sea-chanty ambience, it is one of the most ridiculous tracks that Nelson has ever tried to tackle. Yet, the joviality of it spills over into his duet with Chesney on Guy Clarkís ganja-stoked Worry B Gone. When viewed together, the two tracks serve as the perfect set-up for Nelsonís You Donít Think Iím Funny Anymore, on which he skillfully uses all of the lighthearted humor that has accumulated over the course of the endeavor to mask his heartache.

With an artist who is as productive as Nelson, of course, it almost goes without saying that there are bound to be a few bumps in the road. Yet, in the grand scheme of his career, Moment of Forever hardly could be considered an unbearable flop. Itís not anywhere close to his worst effort. In fact, if it is given a chance, there are portions of it that turn out to be remarkably good. Nelson tosses some tasty guitar work into Over You Again as well as Always Now, and despite the big-budget sound of Takiní on Water, the tuneís horn-kissed, R&B groove is too fun to resist. The highlights, however, come during Randy Newmanís Louisiana and Bob Dylanís Gotta Serve Somebody. On the former song, Nelsonís impassioned vocals lead the way as he turns his mourning over the Hurricane Katrina disaster into the sheer determination to survive amidst the rubble. While the latter track might test the patience of some fans, itís a delightfully loose, jam-filled extravaganza on which Nelson swaps licks with guitarist Kenny Greenberg, harmonica player Mickey Raphael, and saxophonist Jim Horn. Instead of becoming an overly stuffy affair, Moment of Forever, strangely enough, found life in the chemistry that Nelson, Chesney, and Cannon developed. Although its surface may be a little too sparkly for some, the fire of Nelsonís inspiration burns hotly within its core. starstarstar Ĺ

Moment of Forever is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


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