Willie Nelson - Tougher Than Leather
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Tougher Than Leather (Columbia/Legacy, 2003)

Willie Nelson

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

Legacy's second batch of reissues captures several of Willie Nelson's musical sides: hit-single maker, visionary album artist, eclectic chance-taker and duet partner. It's a fitting tribute to a musician whose artistry can't be fully explained in a greatest-hits package or anthology box-set. So much of Nelson's catalog was conceived and executed as holistic long-playing albums, that to abbreviate or interweave his work is to fundamentally alter the original artifacts.

A prime example is 1983's "Tougher Than Leather," a thematic song-cycle often overshadowed by Nelson's earlier breakthrough, "Red Headed Stranger." Recorded with his road band, it's not as musically broad or dramatically stagey as "Stranger," but its old west tale of life, karma and reincarnation stands as one of Nelson's most seamless blends of music and philosophy. "Leather" forms a bookend with "Stranger," capping nearly a decade of film appearances, soundtrack recordings and albums full of others' material with a solid return to Nelson's songwriting roots.

"Tougher Than Leather" reveals some of Willie Nelson's mystical inner workings.

CDs by Willie Nelson

The Border, 2024 Bluegrass, 2023 Don't Know A Thing About Love, 2023 A Beautiful Time, 2022 That's Life, 2021 First Rose of Spring, 2020 Ride Me Back Home, 2019 My Way, 2018 Last Man Standing, 2018 Willie's Stash Volume 2, 2017 God's Problem Child, 2017 Summertime Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, 2016 Band of Brothers, 2014 To All the Girls..., 2013 Let's Face the Music and Dance, 2013 Freedom, 2012 Remember Me Vol. 1, 2011 Country Music, 2010 American Classic, 2009 Lost Highway, 2009 Naked Willie, 2009 One Hell of a Ride, 2008 Moment of Forever, 2008 Songbird, 2006 Live From Austin, TX, 2006 Songs of Cindy Walker, 2006 You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker, 2006

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