Album Remarks & Appraisals:
At long last, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price, three of the original country outlaws, have come together to record, Last of the Breed, a collection of 22 classic country/western hits on a two CD or two LP set. LOTB is produced by the legendary Fred Foster, and features special guests Kris Kristofferson and Vince Gill. The album is a journey to the Golden Era of true country music and the timeless songs made famous by Bob Wills, Buck Owens, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snow, Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Ernest Tubb, Elvis Presley, Eddy Arnold, Everly Brothers, Gene Autry, as well as a few penned by Willie and Merle.
Rolling Stone (p.114) - Included in Rolling Stone's "50 Top Albums of the Year 2007" -- "Country music with none of the modern trimmings....But it is big and rich in every other way."
Entertainment Weekly (p.75) - "[T]his veritable Mount Rushmore mostly revisits forgotten country classics, making this a particularly tasty hall-of-famer hookup." -- Grade: B+
Dirty Linen (p.49) - "Together, there's a certain fraternal bond and tight-knit chemistry that allows each artist enough space to shine individually as well as to collaborate freely as egoless peers."
Personnel: Willie Nelson (gut-string guitar); Willie Nelson (vocals); Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Vince Gill (vocals); D. Bergen White (chant); Don Potter (acoustic guitar); Brent Mason (electric guitar); Johnny Gimble (mandolin, fiddle); Elana James (fiddle); Charlie McCoy (harmonica, vibraphone); Boots Randolph (saxophone); Gordon Mote (piano); John Hobbs (Wurlitzer organ, keyboards); Eddie Bayers (drums); Kris Kristofferson (vocals); Aubrey Haynie (mandolin, fiddle); The Jordanaires (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Fred Foster; Brent Maher.
Recording information: Blue Room Studios, Nashville, TN; Soundkitchen, Franklin, TN.
LAST OF THE BREED partners Willie Nelson with two other legends of maverick country, Merle Haggard and Ray Price. With a collection of talent this archetypal, the title sounds less like a boast and more like a statement of fact. Price is an old-school country gentlemen hip enough to hang with the Outlaws, while Haggard and Nelson are probably the only pot-smoking hippies universally accepted by the red states.
LAST OF THE BREED is an easy-on-the-ears honky-tonk shuffle of a record. The trio ambles through many of the classics that made them famous and, surprisingly, the weather of age suits them well--particularly Price, always the best singer of the bunch, whose robust tenor has lost a step or two over the years. The lack of power gives frail yet touching readings to, among others, his own "Heartaches By The Number," and Hank Williams's classic "Lost Highway." The latter song features the angelic Jordanaires, and is probably the least ravaged and thereby most tragic version of this oft-covered song. The listener is led to think: If these guys can get lost, then we're all in trouble. Not to be outdone by Price, Haggard brings the only new original composition to this session, the easily mournful "If I Ever Get Lucky," while ol' Willie offers his gingerly jazzy vocal phrasing and light picking touch, which hasn't sounded this assured with frontier music since THE RED-HEADED STRANGER.