Picks and Pans Review: Twisted Willie

updated 02/05/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/05/1996 AT 01:00 AM EST

Various Artists

Assembling a group of musicians to cover Willie Nelson tunes might strike some fans as a redundant exercise. After all, Nelson broke out in the '60s and 70s writing songs recorded by others, like country music icons Patsy Cline ("Crazy") and Faron Young ("Hello Walls"), and soul man Al Green ("Funny How Time Slips Away"). Twisted Willie puts a postmodern twist on Nelson's considerable canon by tossing such hip alternative rockers as the Presidents of the United States of America in with old-timers like Johnny Cash (backed by members of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains as well as Nirvana's former bassist Krist Novoselic).

Twisted works best when the artists retain whichever of Nelson's songwriting personas—bandanna-wearing outlaw, sad balladeer or existential folkie—a particular number reflects. Cash's take on the grim "Time of the Preacher," for instance, is appropriately sturdy and foreboding. But L7's guitar blaze-of-gory is jarringly wrong for a number with lyrics as lovelorn as those in "Three Days." Halfway through, when they slow the tempo and get all Tex-Mexed, the effect is heartbreaking enough to make you pull out a hankie and whisper, "That's more like it." (Justice)

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