Willie Nelson: Mark Morrison/Retna
Chris Willman
November 05, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

While Norah and Lucinda sprinkle some duet stardust here on It Always Will Be, this is basically Nelson’s first full-on, first-rate solo record in ages. Befitting the title, it has a lovely circular arc, starting off elegiac, working up road-house pep in the middle stretch, and then resettling into pure Zen-acoustic Willie. Standout: ”Tired,” a working-man’s-ennui ballad cowritten by Toby Keith that’s so moving the Chicks oughta cover it.

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