What's left to say about Willie Nelson? First-class singer/songwriter, country-music innovator, stoner-cowboy Buddha, the guy on whose bus you'd most like to ride. It's all been said before, and it's all true. At 70, Nelson is older than Dylan, his hair is still long, and his voice only gets better with age. "Essential" is Nelson's 13th compilation release, in itself a testament to serious longevity. This one spans four decades, from 1961's "Night Life," to "Mendocino County Line," a duet with Lee Ann Womack recorded in 2001, and unlike previous one-disc compilations, this 41-track, double-disc outing gives a broad overview of the pioneer's career. Fans with the entire Nelson discography in their collections take note: There is one previously unreleased track, "One Time Too Many," a forgettable song on which Willie's whiskey-mellow pipes are completely overshadowed by Steven Tyler's shrill histrionics. Taken collectively, "Essential" will make you wish, yet again, that you could be as cool as Willie. (Willie Nelson performs Saturday, April 12, at Universal Studios.)
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