For all of Willie Nelson’s many talents, he’s never developed any semblance of an internal editor, and that’s made his catalogue maddeningly uneven. It’s that inconsistency and lack of focus that mars Heroes, which relies too heavily on misguided collaborations that don’t add anything of value to the album. Interestingly, though, the primary culprit behind the album’s messiness isn’t Nelson himself, but his son, Lukas, who performs on or co-wrote the majority of the songs. Though the younger Nelson penned a couple of great tracks here (“No Place to Fly” and “Every Time He Drinks He Thinks of Her”), his guest vocal performances are so flat and affectless that they detract from his father’s trademark empathetic singing whenever the two share the mic. Unfortunately, Lukas isn’t the only one of Willie’s collaborators who let him down. While Jamey Johnson’s and, yes, Snoop Dogg’s turns on the weed anthem “Roll Me Up” may be fun and self-referential, both Johnson and Billy Joe Shaver sound badly out of tune on “Hero.” And Sheryl Crow’s voice has never been more shrill and tinny than it is on a cover of Tom Waits’s “Come On Up to the House.” It’s only when Nelson flies solo, as on a lovely rendition of Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” that Heroes speaks to his status as a genre legend. Sadly, there just isn’t enough Willie on Heroes to make the album a success or a failure that’s definitively his own.
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