WILLIE NELSON The Great Divide (Universal) Rating: NN
When Willie Nelson made unexpected recording moves in the past, there was always a sense that however outlandish the concept -- from dueting with Julio Iglesias to cutting a paean to drug dabbling -- Nelson was calling the shots. However, The Great Divide (out Tuesday), a horribly ham-fisted exercise in niche marketing, has all the earmarks of boardroom calculation. From the choice of platinum-plus producer Matt Serletic (Matchbox 20, Santana) to collaborators like CMA vocalist-of-the-year Lee Ann Womack, bad boy Kid Rock and pop/R&B crooner Brian McKnight, the priority is clearly to maximize target audience reach and chart placement rather than to make music of lasting quality. And for that it's a huge disappointment.