Picks and Pans Review: Me and Paul
Nelson has come so close to the status of an institution that it's tempting to forget what a pleasure it is to hear him when he just hunkers down and sings. This easygoing, slightly melancholy collection includes three Billy Joe Shaver tunes, one of them Old Five & Dimers Like Me, which Willie still handles with a knowing sense of resignation, even though he has long since risen at least into the Neiman-Marcus class. But the focus of the album is Nelson's own material—nine songs' worth. Most have been recorded before at various times, but some, such as You Wouldn't Cross the Street To Say Goodbye and I Never Cared for You, are unfamiliar—not to mention being wonderful examples of Nelson's genius for writing love-gone-wrong songs. The title tune, about the early career adventures of Nelson and his longtime friend and drummer Paul English, has sounded livelier, and it seems a shame that someone didn't think to let English sing a "Me and Willie" chorus for a change, even if he had to talk his way through it. There's also some more of that old familiar conflict for a listener: You have to admire Nelson for staying loyal to his old fans by keeping his backup band intact, but you also can't help wishing the band was a little better. The LP is nonetheless thoroughly satisfying—a great singer singing terrific songs. (Columbia)
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