This time around, producer James Stroud envelops Nelson’s elastic voice in tasty, staunchly traditional arrangements of George Jones’ first hit (“Why Baby Why”), Tennessee Ernie Ford’s signature No. 1 single (“Sixteen Tons”) and Hank Snow’s theme song (“I’m Movin’ On”). Nelson and Stroud take a surprisingly jaunty stroll through Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” then get things hot and swinging in Tex Williams’ classic condemnation of the evils of nicotine, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette).”
Nelson reaches deepest, however, when the tempo slows for Webb Pierce’s “Slowly,” Vern Gosdin’s aching “That Just About Does It” and Merle Haggard’s exquisite essay on the wounds love can leave, “Today I Started Loving You Again.” At 78, Nelson reminds us that his deceptively effortless vocal style can still touch the heart. Volume II is due next year.
— Randy Lewis
“Remember Me, Vol. 1”
**Three stars (out of four)