By Chris Willman
Updated July 04, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT

Two Men With the Blues

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Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis may seem like an odd couple, but this live disc Two Men With the Blues makes the country legend and jazz master sound like natural partners. The choice of ”Basin Street Blues” as centerpiece is a tip-off that their sensibility is New Orleans by way of Texas and Tin Pan Alley — with Marsalis’ usual horn-fronted band doing the driving and Nelson settling in perfectly with his offbeat vocal phrasing. The ponytailed frontman revives two classic ballads from his revered (and newly reissued) standards album, 1978’s Stardust, but the more spirited, obscure blues stompers are the keepers. For a lively study in contrasts, go to the final number, Merle Travis’ ”That’s All.” There, the usually laconic Nelson turns in perhaps the most frantic acoustic-guitar solo of his life, then Marsalis holds one trumpet note for 25 seconds. They’re a comedy team, too. B+
DOWNLOAD THIS: Listen to ”That’s All” and the rest of the album on Wynton Marsalis’ website

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Two Men With the Blues

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