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Let’s Face the Music and Dance by Willie Nelson and Family

No one would ever accuse Willie Nelson of slowing down with age. As ol’ Willie turns 80 this month, he releases yet another album, the poignant Let’s Face the Music and Dance.

With the spare arrangements of 1998’s Teatro and standards that call to mine his landmark 1978 album Stardust, the project confirms Willie among the greatest living interpreters of American music. Only one of the album’s 14 tracks was penned by the artist—“Is the Better Part Over,” from 1989’s A Horse Called Music—with the rest a collection of often decades-old songs.

Yet nothing feels musty. “South of the Border” is a sleepy tour through Mexico, bolstered by Willie’s signature guitar picking, which also propels the instrumental “Nuages,” by Willie’s hero, jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

But it’s Willie’s famously unconventional vocals that distinguish the album. Their vulnerability and sincerity in such performances as “You’ll Never Know” and “Twilight Time” reveal an artist wistful for the songs of his youth.

If last year’s Heroes, with the tongue-in-cheek “Roll Me Up,” was Willie proving he’s still vital, Let’s Face the Music and Dance is a legend who has seen it all reveling in the melancholy of time’s passing.

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