Here is a typical line off this turgid album, from "The Maker," a ponderous tune by Nelson's producer Daniel Lanois: "Oh, oh, deep water/ Black and cold like the night/ I stand with arms wide open/ I've run a twisted line/ I'm a stranger in the eyes of the Maker."
That song is about God, so at least its seriousness has religious underpinnings. The other 13 songs, though, just seem thick and logy. Not even the usually exhilarating presence of Emmylou Harris, whose sweet, sublimely smooth voice is an ideal complement to Nelson's vinegar-and-sandpaper sound, can relieve the somber tone of tunes like "Darkness On the Face of the Earth" and "I've Just Destroyed the World." There are four new Nelson compositions here, mixed with other writers' tunes and such welcome Nelson standbys as "I Never Cared for You" and "My Own Peculiar Way." Now 65, Nelson is still in good voice; it's just not that entertaining to hear him sound more like an undertaker than an outlaw.
Bottom Line: This older Willie isn't the old Willie