Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ray Price

Last of the Breed (Lost Highway)

Country music gets a bad rap from all the commercial bullshit that clogs the airwaves, but if you want to hear the real deal, it doesn't get any more pedigreed than Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price.

The collective effort from this trinity, Last of the Breed,corrals country classics, a few church tunes, and two originals by Willie and Merle. The double-CD set was recorded in Nashville last fall, and disc one works the best, with tunes like "I Love You in a Thousand Ways" and "My Life's Been a Pleasure" sounding fresh from the roadhouse on a Saturday night. Kris Kristofferson joins in on a rendition of his old tune, the slow, bluesy "Why Me," while "Mom and Dad's Waltz" is a nostalgic dance with Willie across the barroom floor ("I fight in wars/ do all the chores/ for my momma and daddy ... I want them to live on/ 'til they're called"). Disc two is slightly unnecessary, but "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down" exudes the joy of performing tunes these country icons have cherished over the years. In fact, the track was recorded in one take, as were many of these sessions, in an effortless cohesion of ancient friendships. Although a couple disc-two songs ("I Love You Because" and "If I Ever Get Lucky") lapse into weepy country stereotypes, Last of the Breedremains true to its name and is worth a listen. — TophOne

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