Uncut - p.1003 stars out of 5
- "[T]he universal themes of tough love, outlaw tales and spiritual devotion seem drawn across parallel lines....It's remarkably good."
Mojo (Publisher) - p.1023 stars out of 5
- "[A]n affable affair, with Willie providing his nasal, agreeable, home-on-the-strange vocals while steel guitar and violins merge with reggae riddims to the rear."
Personnel: Willie Nelson (vocals, guitar); Pam Hall, Sir Harry Bowens, Sweet Pea Atkinson, Donald Ray Mitchell (vocals, background vocals); Toots Hibbert (vocals); Mikey Hyde (keyboards); Paul "Pablo" Stennett (bass guitar); Uziah "Sticky" Thompson (percussion); Lieba Thomas (background vocals); Dan Bosworth, Randy Jacobs, Richard Feldman, Wayne Jobson (guitar); Robby Turner (steel guitar, dobro); Mickey Raphael (harmonica); Stephen Stewart, Norris Webb (keyboards); Santa Davis (drums).
Audio Mixers: Richard Feldman; Tom Weir.
Recording information: Ocean Way Studios, Hollywood, CA (1995-2004); Record One, Los Angeles, CA (1995-2004); Studio Of The Legends, Jamaica (1995-2004).
Photographer: Jim Herrington.
Willie Nelson and reggae might seem at first to be an unlikely match.
Upon further thought, though, Nelson's laid-back sensibility, subtle
rhythmic lilt, and stoner image make his reggae album, COUNTRYMAN, seem in retrospect like an inevitability. Instead of adding his distinctive jazzy drawl and ragged guitar to a batch of reggae classics, though, Willie mostly keeps it country amid the Kingston grooves, delivering many of his own songs, as well a couple by Johnny Cash and reggae giant Jimmy Cliff.
Produced by Don Was, these tracks mostly feature L.A. session musicians doing a credible approximation of early-'70s Cliff/Toots & the
Maytals-style roots reggae, while Willie remains unflappable atop the
rhythmic change-up of the arrangements. These sessions actually sat in the can for about eight years before finally seeing the light of day, but anyone who ever wondered what bleak, ruminative Nelson chestnuts
such as "Darkness on the Face of the Earth" and "I've Just Destroyed
the World" would sound like with the added emotional contrast of a
bouncy reggae beat were finally sated with COUNTRYMAN's 2005 release.