Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Willie Nelson & Hank Snow

  • Brand on My Heart [Columbia, 1985] A

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Brand on My Heart [Columbia, 1985]
If you're tempted by Willie and Double K's Songwriter soundtrack, go on to the next graf. Best thing about his mucho pusho duet compilation with Hank Williams, Julio Iglesias, Lacy J. Dalton, and so forth is its title: Half Nelson. Highwaymen, featuring Johnny Cash on every track plus Waylon and Double K on many, is Outlaws III (or V, who's counting?), with Cash's "Committed to Parkview" providing a therapeutic shot of contemporary realism. Angel Eyes, backed by the Nashville-gone-jazzer guitar of Jackie King, is Nashville-gone-jazzy. The Faron Young collaboration Funny How Time Slips Away is almost on a level with Willie's Ray Price album, but Young's timbre has thickened so moistly you'd swear the Hank Williams he's now imitating is Jr. And so. I've always been put off by Snow's up-north propriety, more Vernon Dalhart than Jimmie Rodgers, but after 70 years his baritone is finally beginning to crack, providing Willie just the opening he needs to loosen the old pro up: without sacrificing a diphthong of his famous enunciation, Snow sounds completely relaxed. The tossed-off serendipity of so many Nelson records translates here into a casually engaging, deftly eclectic bunch of classics and obscurities, Willie's best album since he and Webb Pierce cut In the Jailhouse Now on a long coffee break in 1982. A