[Rating: 3 stars]
In his 79 years on earth, Willie Nelson has built up an unparalleled legacy in country music and a catalog so deep that only Frank Zappa’s gives it any competition in terms of sheer volume. Nelson’s 66th album, Heroes, follows a similar pattern to most of his recent releases, offering up a populist mix of original compositions, covers of cowboy classics and contemporary songs in equal measure. This frequently ends up frustrating; his attempt at Coldplay’s “The Scientist” is an awkward fit, and Tom Waits’ “Come On Up to the House” is stripped of much of the original’s soul, while Snoop Dogg’s goofy cameo in “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” though endearing, comes off as little more than novelty. When Willie’s son Lukas takes a turn at songwriting, however, the record is at its strongest, with highlights like “Every Time He Drinks He Thinks of Her” and “No Place to Fly” showcasing a winning earnestness, and an affecting second voice whose gentle warble could only come from the same bloodline.