Ever since he co-founded the outlaw country movement with Waylon Jennings in the mid-'70s, Willie Nelson has made a career of confounding Nashville with albums that mixed country with jazz, pop, Western swing, and the blues. Nashville isn't likely to court "Teatro" either, as Nelson has teamed with a band of Cuban percussionists for an unconventional album of reprised material and new songs.
Producer Daniel Lanois' spare arrangements and Emmylou Harris' angelic backing vocals refresh some old Nelson standards such as "Home Motel" and the bitter "I Never Cared For You," which is redone with a subtle mambo rhythm. Nelson's plaintive baritone and emotive acoustic guitar place his new album firmly in the tradition of American-roots music that he helped define.
"Teatro" proves that great artists can look toward the future even as they cling to their past.