Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-01-01


Willie Nelson: Heroes (Legacy, 2012) How much you value this entry in the 79-year-old's unchartable catalogue--over and above "Roll Me Up," in which Jamey Johnson, Kris Kristofferson, and none other than Snoop Dogg top off the title with the genius punch line "and smoke me when I die"--depends on what you make of Willie's 23-year-old son Lukas, who sings on nine of the tracks and wrote three of them. I think one of his originals is aces, one self-sustaining, and one--which naturally goes on for six minutes--the worst thing on the record. But once I learned to distinguish him from the half-century older Billie Joe Shaver, who undercuts the solemn title track with his patented off-the-cuff aplomb, I decided that Lukas's stoned-hillbilly affect was just what his dad needed to distinguish this particular assortment of what-thes, why-hasn't-he-evers, and written-to-orders from rival entries in his unchartable catalogue. B+

Carl Perkins: The Very Best of Carl Perkins: Blue Suede Shoes (Collectables, 1998) Subtly bopping the essence of blues growl and juke-joint thrust, he was more adult, more regional, and more threatening than the Everlys or Buddy Holly. That's one reason he so quickly became a specialty taste artistically and a Nashville born-againer commercially, beloved by guitar adepts and romanticizers of Dixie-fried fundamentalism but legendary for one definitive song only. The guitar people have a point--while no James Burton, he had more jam than Scotty Moore and would have gotten where he got without Moore or his big boss man. But if that's all there was to him, he'd deserve to be a specialty taste. It's the songwriting that has reach. "Blue Suede Shoes" aside, these ditties seem to be trifles. Say you will when you won't. Put your cat clothes on. Or your pink pedal pushers. So now you try to do it--in 2:46, 2:48, and 2:25 respectively. Fine is the line between a spontaneous throwaway and a miraculous miniature. A

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