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posted: 10/23/2013 6:00 AM

Willie Nelson's new albums of duets uneven

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  • Willie Nelson, "To All the Girls ..."

    Willie Nelson, "To All the Girls ..."
    Associated Press

Associated Press

Willie Nelson, "To All The Girls ..." (Sony Legacy)

Willie Nelson's "To All The Girls ...," an album of duets with female partners, is custom-made for the download age. Few fans will connect with all 16 songs -- the set is too eclectic and too inconsistent for that. But plenty of gold nuggets shine through for those willing to pick through the miscues and throwaways.

The second album of original material released this year by Nelson, and his fifth new album in three years, the ever-productive 80-year-old keeps pouring out new music, even when a little self-editing might make the individual packages stronger.

The gems on "To All The Girls ..." include a stunning multi-lingual duet with Alison Krauss on "No Mas Amor" (written by Keith Gattis and Sammy Barrett) and covers of Merle Haggard's "Somewhere Between," in an emotion-packed version with Loretta Lynn, and a swinging "Till The End Of The World" with Shelby Lynne.

On the other hand, Dolly Parton's self-written contribution, "From Here To The Moon And Back," suffers from over-sentimentality. A cover of the country chestnut, "Making Believe," drags due to a lifeless reading by Nelson -- a point driven home by how much more feeling duet partner Brandi Carlile brings to her part.

Nelson's previous album, "Let's Face The Music And Dance" -- released just six months ago -- is among 2013's less-recognized highlights. Some selective care would have made "To All The Girls ..." another strong outing, rather than one that alternately soars and sputters.

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