Island - 2001 - 44 minutes

Whether you remember Willie Nelson as the writer of Patsy Cline's 'Crazy' or co-organiser of the 1985 Farm Aid concert with Neil Young, he's been a stalwart of the country scene for many a decade. On the sleevenotes for his latest work, he describes how 'Rainbow Connection' was originally planned as a children's CD. What actually evolved is a cluster of familial songs that twinkle with hope.

'Rainbow Connection' is a poignant ballad of Americana; the Luck Choir do their best Von Trapp family impersonation on 'I'm Looking Over A Four-Leaved Clover. 'Ol Blue' is a classic country ode to a lost pal – except in this case, it's his faithful canine. 'Wise Old Me' is written and sung by his daughter Amy, much to the pride of her father. Nelson does his 'Old Father Time' routine on 'I'm My Own Grandpa' and 'Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way' is the only song penned by the man himself.

It's a testament to a career that spans more than four decades that Willie Nelson is still producing songs of such calibre, even if there is a hint of twee-ness from time to time. 'Rainbow Connection' doesn't scale the heights of his mid-Seventies work, but it's a worthy collection of songs. Nelson has one foot in the past, but most of his weight leans towards the future as a man satiated with his achievements. And deservedly so.

Sinéad Gleeson

Tracklisting: Rainbow Connection – I'm Looking Over A Four-Leaf Clover – Ol' Blue – Wise Old Me – Won't You Ride In My Little Red Wagon – Playmate – I'm My Own Grandpa – Rock Me To Sleep – Playin' Dominoes And Shootin' Dice – Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way – Outskirts Of Town – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) – The Thirty-Third Of August