Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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***1/2

WILLIE NELSON
Rainbow Connection
Island

Here's another connection between two secret sharers: Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson both convince you they just did whatever they did off the top of their heads. That's why Nelson's two big statements of the '90s--1993's Don Was-produced Across the Borderline and 1997's Daniel Lanois-produced Teatro--lack the magic of the austere Spirit, the instrumental Night and Day, or even the casual remakes on last year's unnoticed Me and the Drummer. And it's why this half-assed half-kiddie album hits harder than last year's concept-controlled Milk Cow Blues. Named after and leading with a Kermit the Frog favorite, it tosses off many other gems this great lover of American song never got around to telling us about before as it works its way to Mickey Newbury's funereal "The Thirty-Third of August." But for all the charms of "I'm My Own Grandpa" and "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," each delivered with a canny guilelessness that cuts through the silly and the pretentious with equal ease, the summation is one Willie wrote himself last year: "If we're backin' up it's just to get a runnin' start/'cuz everything we do we do with all our hearts/and it don't really matter what they say/we wouldn't have it any other way."

Rolling Stone, 2001