First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2005, Volume 12, #7
Written by John Metzger
The concept behind Countryman took root nearly a decade ago when Willie Nelson and producer Don Was approached Island Recordsí Chris Blackwell in order to gauge his interest in releasing an album that fused country, gospel, and reggae. Although Nelson completed the recording of the basic tracks for the outing, the project was shelved amidst the series of acquisitions and mergers that surrounded the record label. Recently revisited, the 12-track, 36-minute set isnít nearly as horrifying as some would make it out to be. Yet, it also is hardly much more than a perfunctory collection of songs that often stumbles awkwardly for direction.
At its worst, Countryman sounds as if Nelson, steel guitarist Robby Turner, and harmonica player Mickey Raphael opted to perform a series of country tunes in a reggae-only karaoke bar, and despite their best efforts, the lifeless, pre-packaged beats and strange dub effects severely undermine the material. On the other hand, Nelson shrugs off the uncomfortable ambience to twist Johnny Cashís Iím a Worried Man as well as a pair of Jimmy Cliff-penned classics (The Harder They Come and Sitting in Limbo) into blaze-friendly gems. Even so, Countryman amounts to little more than a passing curiosity that likely will be forgotten among the many far better albums contained within Nelsonís extensive catalogue. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box