Audio Mixer: Butch Carr.
Photographer: Danny Clinch.
Arriving a few short months after the standards collection Let's Face the Music and Dance, which itself came less than a year after his Legacy debut Heroes, To All the Girls splits the difference between these two albums for Legacy. As a duets album comprised entirely of female partners, To All the Girls is, like Heroes, driven by superstar guest power but the intimate, relaxed feel is reminiscent of Let's Face the Music and Dance. Such a quiet, comfortable setting is welcoming to a wide variety of partners, ranging from living legends Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Mavis Staples, and Emmylou Harris to more recent superstars Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. Between these two extremes lie such excellent, underappreciated, new alt-country singers like Brandi Carlile and the Secret Sisters, family -- both sister Paula Nelson and Melonie Cannon, the daughter of Buddy Cannon -- and stars who are working their way toward legend status (Norah Jones, Alison Krauss, Sheryl Crow, Wynnona Judd, Shelby Lynne). Similarly, the songs split the difference between new versions of Nelson classics ("Bloody Mary Morning," "Always on My Mind," "Please Don't' Tell Me How the Story Ends"), covers of beloved songs ("Til the End of the World," "Have You Ever Seen the Rain"), and brand-new tunes (Dolly brings in "From Here to the Moon and Back," which she wrote for Joyful Noise, a gospel musical co-starring Queen Latifah). Nearly all of this proceeds at an amiably lazy gait, which makes the handful of cuts that stray from this path quite notable: "Bloody Mary Morning" retains its trademark gallop with Wynnona; Brandi Carlile hits the honky tonk fairly hard on "Making Believe"; Shelby Lynne gives a hazy south-of-the-border feel to "The End of the World," and Krauss' "No Mas Amor" is dreamy. Although there is not a bad cut here -- this is all assured, easy, impeccably tasteful work from Willie and his partners -- the 70-minute length of To All the Girls does make the album feel a little samey, but that can be a good thing, as it makes for nice, romantic mood music or a drowsy Sunday afternoon at home. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine