Sound — 7
With more than five dozen studio albums and nearly six decades of experience in his impressive resume, Willie Nelson is perhaps one of the most active musicians in the country music community. Dedicated fans have never been without new material from Nelson for too long, with the musician sometimes releasing a collection of unheard songs almost every year; sometimes, even twice. Throughout the past few decades, Nelson has redirected his attention towards moving into new frontiers and collaborations: examples of these include the duets album "To All the Girls…" and the 2012 effort comprised largely of covers, "Heroes."
With such an extensive portfolio, one could argue that Nelson should be able to do whatever he pleases artistically. He's certainly earned the ability to do so. However, when it came down to the direction for his recently released studio album "Band of Brothers," the outcome featured the most original material to appear on a new Willie Nelson album since 1996's "Spirit." The actual musical side to this effort doesn't include anything entirely groundbreaking; such a feat, without some sort of radical stylistic alternation, would be quite difficult in the case of an artist such as Nelson. Rather, "Band of Brothers" is an album which boasts a collection of classic sounding songs written and recorded with a familiar approach.
The opening number "Bring It On" shows that despite his longevity, the outlaw side to Willie Nelson is still alive and well, as he continues forward atop galloping acoustic guitar and harmonica accompaniment. "I Thought I Left You" shows Nelson moving into an emotional ballad which shows the musician pondering why despite leaving his significant other, he still cannot forget about her. More upbeat territory awaits the listener on such cuts as "Used to Her" and "Wives and Girlfriends," the latter of which includes some memorable lyrical content we'll address later in the review.
"Band of Brothers" still has it's fair share of memorable covers; Willie Nelson provides a strong take on the Vince Gill classic "Whenever You Come Around," which rivals the original by terms of Nelson's emotional vocal performance. Similarly, Nelson tackles the Billie Joe Shaver favorite "The Git Go," while recruiting Jamey Johnson to assist on the song's distinctive guitar work. However, the truly standout moments here are on the album's original material, for example the closing track "I've Got a Lot of Traveling to Do," which show Nelson preparing to do just as the title says and take on the world once again.
Lyrics — 8
Willie Nelson's lyrical performance on "Band of Brothers" doesn't just remain in one particular territory; the album's themes vary from heartbreak to forming new relationships, from living the life of an outlaw to living the life of a veteran country artist. "Guitar in the Corner" is a strong example of that last perspective, which shows Nelson in a more reflective state of mind as he explains how writing new music has gotten easier over his career. "Wives and Girlfriends" has the musician discussing the common theme amongst musicians of having numerous romantic relationships, while singing, "I might be a Mormon / I might be a heathen / I might be a gambler / I just don't know."
Overall Impression — 8
In short, Willie Nelson offers a formidable return to his original approach through a collection of predominantly original material on "Band of Brothers." You would be pressed to find a dedicated fan who would ever talk down to any of Nelson's efforts, however it's widely evident that where this musician truly shines is when he's writing memorable new songs. The performance found throughout "Band of Brothers" doesn't sound as though they're coming from an 81-year old country artist; while the distinctive style of Nelson is obviously apparent, the music is youthful, lighthearted and always engaging.