Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Willie Nelson: Nite Life: Greatest Hits and Rare Tracks (1959-1971) [Rhino, 1991]
It wasn't a penchant for rock mythos and hairstyle that crossed him over--it was pure-pop generalizations and jazz timing. "Am I Blue," a 1929 copyright for Hollywood lyricist Grant Clarke, sounds no more and no less a natural-born chestnut than "Crazy" or "Funny How Time Slips Away"; conversational strokes like "One in a Row" and "Opportunity to Cry" clue you in with their titles and proceed to amaze you anyway. "Me and Paul"'s understated outlaw narrative points to Red Headed Stranger, but it represents a break. Sooner or later this country nonconformist will go back to his roots and make an album called Stardust. A