Pop picks: Willie Nelson, Travelin’ Man and three more acts

Though it’s 62 years old, Willie Nelson’s musical legacy seems to be positively rooted in his family tree. It’s a trait he shares with his father, a former country music star who lost his…

Pop picks: Willie Nelson, Travelin’ Man and three more acts

Though it’s 62 years old, Willie Nelson’s musical legacy seems to be positively rooted in his family tree. It’s a trait he shares with his father, a former country music star who lost his wife and children in a plane crash, and it’s carried forward to help reanimate his 43rd solo studio album, Travelin’ Man.

The album features not just his progeny but his late mother and sisters, though the title track includes a special nod to the family arias.

It also features a number of clever collaborations with other family members, including Linda Ronstadt, son Lukas Nelson, who opens the album with a raucous solo on Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, and Kristofferson, on the devil-may-care lament Red Headed Stranger.

Mixed in with the more traditional harmonica and guitar solos on Travelin’ Man, are his two daughters, Sheryl Crow and Lukas. “I just like it when my mama’s around, and when my mama’s around, I’m in a different place,” the guitarist says.

Walking the Line, Sheryl Crow and Lukas Nelson

From the funkier vibes of her cover of Arthur Alexander’s medley that rocks on We’ll Meet Again to an acoustic-guitar duet with Lukas on Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, Crow, 49, is aided by Nelson’s son, 26, a country musician from Nashville. She also guests on the wry, bitter cut That’s Life.

The album, recorded at Nelson’s ranch near Austin, Texas, contains seven other cover versions of songs by other artists. Here are a few that stand out.

The World Needs More Love

Singer-songwriter Glen Campbell wrote the 1978 song, seen as the Bicentennial tune, and it was his signature hit; it was nominated for a Grammy award. On Travelin’ Man, Nelson pays his respects by using a version that sounds a lot more like one that Campbell would have produced.

That’s Life

Nelson’s cover of After the Gold Rush in the song’s original, Billy Sherrill-produced production sounds eerily like one that Sherrill did in 1974 for Nelson’s 14th studio album, Three Spanish Angels. The one that gives Nelson his first serious run at a wider audience. It came out in 1971 when Nelson was at the apex of his Nashville success.

That Will Be the Last Time

Nelson’s version of Willie Nelson: A Country Music Odyssey (1981) is an unedited version of a previously-unissued live version. On this contemplative track, Nelson closes the album with a mournful dose of regret.

Tennessee Stud

This covered version of Travelin’ Man’s In Pines is one of the handful of songs that actually features Ryan Bingham on the famous mandolin solo. He’s no doubt thankful that he has Nelson to go to on so many of the cowboy songs that should be his.

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