The best way to enjoy Willie Nelson’s reggae album "Countryman" is sitting on a beach, with the waves gently rolling in, a cool drink by your side and a wide brimmed hat pulled down low.
Under those conditions, Nelson’s laid-back attempt at marrying country music and reggae will work just fine, mon.
There’s not much to dislike on "Countryman", which Nelson started in 1995 but didn’t finish until recently. Nelson mined his vast repertoire of songs for nine of the 12 tracks, and chose three perfect songs to cover: reggae classics "The Harder They Come" and "Sitting in Limbo" and Johnny Cash’s "I’m a Worried Man."
Nelson is joined by Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals on that track, which understandably results in that song having the most obvious and heavy reggae sound to it.
Mostly the reggae groove is unobtrusive and almost a little too subtle, making it hard to tell what Nelson was really after.
Is it a country album trying to be reggae, or reggae with a country twang? Really, who cares?
"Countryman" is like that cool drink on a hot summer day. It goes down smooth, but it’s easily forgotten. In Nelson’s vast repertoire, the disc is likely to be remembered as an asterisk and not a masterpiece.
by Willie Nelson