Review: Willie Nelson’s New Album ‘Bluegrass’ is a Romp

Willie Nelson
Bluegrass
4/5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

When talking about any kind of grass—green, blue, whatever—it’s always great to have country star Willie Nelson involved. The “outlaw” icon released his latest record, Bluegrass, on Friday (September 15) and the record, in a word, is a romp.

For the 90-year-old Nelson, the new LP is also an achievement. It’s his sixth album since 2020—something many artists in their 20s can’t boast. Nelson offers a softer, thoughtful voice on the new LP, which is rich with slide acoustic guitars, mandolins, fiddles, and more. Like a Southern gentleman sitting on the porch, he offers wisdom as much as entertainment. The whole town gathered ’round.

[RELATED: 6 Key Willie Nelson Songs That Showcase His Songcraft]

The Texas-born Nelson has done just about everything in music. So, why not a buoyant bluegrass album in 2023? Bluegrass marks Nelson’s 74th release. It’s also the first in recent memory that Nelson didn’t play his signature guitar, Trigger, on the recordings, he told AARP.

The 12-track album sounds like it’s a record of standards. But Nelson either wrote or co-wrote every song of the dozen. It feels like a deep breath by a genius, a lifer. It’s almost as if he dreams in song and this is a window into his journeyman mind. The album also feels special because of its stripped-down acoustic nature. It’s as if it’s a Willie Nelson Unplugged release. But that’s also the beauty of bluegrass.

In the end, the LP is something you can put on at a party to get the feet flying and the shirt-tails waving. It’s also perfect for a Saturday drive down the highway, sunshine on your sunglassed face. Or it’s an album to put on with your morning coffee to equally parse and appreciate openly.

Most tracks are familiar to Nelson fans, including “On the Road Again.” But no matter if you know them or not, all are lovable like a warm roll from the oven.

She’s a good-hearted woman in love with a good timin’ man
She loves me in spite of my wicked ways that she don’t understand
Through teardrops and laughter
They’ll pass through this world hand in hand
A good-hearted woman lovin’ a good timin’ man

Willie. What a legend. In the end, fans can only say “thank you” for all the artist’s music. And here’s to record No. 75, whenever it’s set to come out and whatever it may be. In the meantime, we can jam to the tunes on Bluegrass.

hoto by Gary Miller/Getty Images for Shock Ink

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