Dirty Linen - p.55
"[The songs] underscore Nelson's stunning yet tender vocal prowess."
Considering the daunting number of Willie Nelson compilations already available prior to the release of 2005's SONGS, wary record-buyers may be forgiven for asking, "Why another one?" What sets this disc apart is its audacious attempt to summarize an incredibly prolific, half-century-plus career in a single 20-song collection. Given the sheer number of stylistic detours the Texas country singer has taken, complete success in this regard is an obvious impossibility.
That said, SONGS does a good job in presenting a wide-screen snapshot of the many moods of Mr. Nelson. The disc begins appropriately with Willie's original demo for "Crazy," one of his most famous compositions and a genre-defining hit for Patsy Cline. The lazy, jazzy, steel-guitar-driven honky-tonk of this seminal cut is followed by several tracks from the 1960s and '70s that reveal Nelson's descriptive lyrics, unusual vocal phrasing, and outlaw attitude all coming into full flower. The disc goes on to feature a series of duets, including a bluesy roadhouse version of Nelson's classic ballad "Funny How Time Slips Away" (with Francine Reed) and the synthesizer-infused pop/R&B of the Brian McKnight collaboration "Don't Fade Away." Fittingly, SONGS concludes with a rousing live version of the timeless Nelson tune "On the Road Again."