It may be exaggeration though a slight one to suggest that the singers Willie Nelson has recorded duets with could fill the Raleigh White Pages.
Thats not a knock against the Hall of Fame icon. Rather, it attests to Nelsons artistic yearnings, versatility and ability to accommodate his personality to a nearly limitless collection of musical styles.
Nelsons latest collaborative gem, To All the Girls, features 18 duets, each with a female vocalist of uncommon gift. Selections range from Willie country classics through pop, western swing, gospel and jazz.
The CD leads with Willie and Dolly Parton crooning the romantic From Here to the Moon and Back. From veteran songbird Dolly, Nelson joins reigning female vocalist of the year Miranda Lambert with She Was No Good for Me, the two seamlessly swapping lead and harmony vocals.
Aural delights are too numerous to mention them all, but a few are particularly noteworthy. Far Away Places, recorded by such luminaries as Bing Crosby, Perry Como and Dinah Shore, is given masterful treatment by Sheryl Crow, who adapts her phrasing to Willies in a brilliant reading of the 1948 pop standard.
With Always on My Mind, Carrie Underwood gives one of the finest performances of her career. Willie and gospel great Mavis Staples proffer a sanctified intergenerational nod to Grandmas Hands. Norah Jones and Willie go country with Walkin, and Emmylou Harris joins Willie on Bruce Springsteens impressionistic Dry Lightning.
Alison Krauss, Rosanne Cash and Loretta Lynn are among the other artists featured on this smartly crafted, enjoyable album blending Willies uniqueness with 18 of Americas most gifted female singers.
Correspondent Jack Bernhardt