22 Songs, 1 Hour 11 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Not many musicians could live up to a title like Last of the Breed. But with more than 150 years of singing, playing, and recording behind them, Willie, Merle, and Ray can pull it off; if there were a dollar bill in the land of country, their pictures would be on it. And in fact, they may not be referring to themselves at all, but to this old-school collection of classic country songs by masters like Harlan Howard, Lefty Frizell, and Cindy Walker. They don’t write ‘em like this anymore — well, except for the two latter-day compositions, Willie’s “Back to Earth” and Merle’s “Sweet Jesus,” neither of which breaks the prevailing mood: relaxed, convivial, effortlessly elegant and loose. Their styles and inflections couldn’t be more different: Haggard’s grizzled, bluesy swagger, Nelson’s famously conversational, behind-the-meter phrasing, Price’s countrypolitan croon, still smooth as satin at age 81. Add traditional Texas swing fiddle from Johnny Gimble, the classic Nashville steel of Buddy Emmons, production by the legendary Fred Foster, and backing vocals from no less than the Jordanaires, and the result is both intimate and masterful, the kind of effort that gives nostalgia a good name. You get the feeling these three veterans could record these tunes in their sleep, but that doesn’t take away from the achievement Last of the Breed represents.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Not many musicians could live up to a title like Last of the Breed. But with more than 150 years of singing, playing, and recording behind them, Willie, Merle, and Ray can pull it off; if there were a dollar bill in the land of country, their pictures would be on it. And in fact, they may not be referring to themselves at all, but to this old-school collection of classic country songs by masters like Harlan Howard, Lefty Frizell, and Cindy Walker. They don’t write ‘em like this anymore — well, except for the two latter-day compositions, Willie’s “Back to Earth” and Merle’s “Sweet Jesus,” neither of which breaks the prevailing mood: relaxed, convivial, effortlessly elegant and loose. Their styles and inflections couldn’t be more different: Haggard’s grizzled, bluesy swagger, Nelson’s famously conversational, behind-the-meter phrasing, Price’s countrypolitan croon, still smooth as satin at age 81. Add traditional Texas swing fiddle from Johnny Gimble, the classic Nashville steel of Buddy Emmons, production by the legendary Fred Foster, and backing vocals from no less than the Jordanaires, and the result is both intimate and masterful, the kind of effort that gives nostalgia a good name. You get the feeling these three veterans could record these tunes in their sleep, but that doesn’t take away from the achievement Last of the Breed represents.

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