Willie Nelson with Merle Haggard – A Horse Called Music (Music Video)

Heroes is an album by country music singer Willie Nelson, released on May 15, 2012 by Legacy Recordings. The album produced by Buddy Cannon contains classic country songs, new songs by Nelson and his son Lukas, as well as the classic from Nelson’s repertoire, “A Horse Called Music”. Guest appearances on the album include Lukas Nelson, Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson, Billy […]


Heroes is an album by country music singer Willie Nelson, released on May 15, 2012 by Legacy Recordings. The album produced by Buddy Cannon contains classic country songs, new songs by Nelson and his son Lukas, as well as the classic from Nelson’s repertoire, “A Horse Called Music”. Guest appearances on the album include Lukas NelsonRay PriceMerle HaggardSnoop DoggKris KristoffersonJamey JohnsonBilly Joe Shaver and Sheryl Crow.

The cover of Coldplay‘s song “The Scientist“, was originally released as a single in 2011, but it was included in the album release after a major reception for a Chipotle Mexican Grill advertising, aired duringSuper Bowl XLVI. The single “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” was released on 420 day, meanwhile “Just Breathe” and “Come On Back Jesus”, were released during Record Store Day 2012.

Background and Recording

Produced by Buddy Cannon, the album is the first to be released by Nelson under his new contract with Sony MusicHeroes includes country music classics “My Window Faces The South”, “Home In San Antone” and “Cold War With You” sung with Ray Price. The album also includes classic originals by Nelson, and new songs by both Nelson and his son Lukas. Special guest appearances includeMerle Haggard on “A Horse Called Music”; Snoop DoggKris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson on the track “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”; as well as Billy Joe Shaver on “Come On Back Jesus” and Sheryl Crow on “Come On Up To The House”. The album also includes two covers, Pearl Jam‘s “Just Breathe” and Coldplay‘s “The Scientist“.

The working title-track of the album features Nelson, as well as Snoop DoggKris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson


Originally, the album was named after the track “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”, but the name was then changed to Heroes, after Nelson and his production team decided that the original name might deter conservative sales outlets. Lukas Nelson suggested to record Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe”, while his brother, Micah, suggested “Come On Up To The House”.[3]

Most of the tracks of the album were recorded by engineer Steve Chadie at Nelson’s Pedernales studio in Austin, Texas, while “Hero”, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and “Come On Back Jesus” were recorded by Butch Carr at Cannon Productions and Sound Emporium Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.

Release and reception

On May 12, 2012, the entire album was premiered on Nelson’s channel Willie’s Roadhouse on Sirius XM Radio.It was released on May 15, 2012. The cover of Coldplay’s song “The Scientist”, was originally released as a single in 2011. The song was included in the album release, after it gained public recognition for its use on a Chipotle restaurant advertising, that was aired during Super Bowl XLVI. “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” was released on April 20, 2012, to celebrate 420 day. The same day, Nelson performed the song live during the unveiling of his statue in Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, the singles “Just Breathe” and “Come On Back Jesus”, were released along with the non-album cut “Can I Sleep In Your Arms” during Record Store Day, on April 21, 2012.

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (70/100)
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars
Consequence of Sound 3/5 stars 
Country Music Television Favorable
Chicago Reader Favorable
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars
The Daily Telegraph 4/5 stars
Star Tribune Favorable.”
Yahoo! Music 3/5 stars
Toronto Sun 3.5/5 stars
Associated Press Negative.
New York Post Favorable.
Entertainment Weekly B
The Independent 3/5 stars

Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic rated the album with three stars out of five: “Willie Nelson once again tries to be everything to everybody on Heroes, an appealingly misshapen collection of classics, contemporaries, and originals. Heroes is roughly divided into quarters […] Each of these categories is a bit hit-or-miss, either succumbing to cutesy novelty and there’s a wee bit too much Lukas Nelson scattered throughout the record […] This can be too much of a strong spice, obscuring the overall flavor of the music, but Lukas contributes a couple of the record’s best songs  Heroes kind of winds up summarizing all that’s good and bad about Willie.. he’s open to everything but has no innate editor, so he whiffs as often as he connects, but when he does connect, it’s a wonder to behold…and somehow he can still surprise whenever he sings those old songs.”

Country Music Television wrote: “Willie Nelson […] never fails to amaze. Just when you think he’s painted himself into a musical dead end, here he comes zipping around the corner riding a fresh, spirited horse Maybe his songwriting pen isn’t as frenetic as it once was, but he still gets his writing licks in. And maybe his voice isn’t as strong as it once was, but he still tells the story – and sells the story. He’s still adding the occasional new original song, as well as originals from other writers and recycled older material. The thing is, I think his ear for a good song is as acute as it has ever been.”

The Chicago Reader favored the album: “(Heroes) it’s a mixed bag that aims for pop crossover, with high-profile cameos, He covers a Tom Waits number as well as one by, um, Coldplay It sounds like a recipe for a terrible album, but the results are actually pretty good.”

Rolling Stone rated the album with three stars out of five. The positive review of the covers and the original songs review, particularly remarked on the track “That’s All There Is to This Song”: “makes you long for more Willie, less Willie and Friends.”Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph praised the album, rating it with four stars out of five. The review was centered in Nelson’s musical legacy and the collaboration of Lukas Nelson, remarking “(Heores) has the kind of last-will-and-testament quality.”Meanwhile, Star Tribune wrote that the participation of Lukas Nelson “lends the album an element of torch-passing, except Willie doesn’t sound ready to fade away.”Yahoo! Music delivered a favorable review to the album, and acclaimed Nelson’s musical legacy: “(Heroes is) one further indication that the man has an extraordinary talent that appeals to generations and people more diverse than any other artist out there.”

The Toronto Sun delivered a favorable review, and noting the selection of the artists that collaborated in the album “It sounds like a bummer, but thanks to Willie’s gentle charm and downhome wit, it’s mostly a hoot.”Meanwhile, Associated Press delivered a negative review, noting that the album “lack(s) of focus and consistency.”The New York Post praised the album, and Nelson inclusion of steel guitars in a context of classic country.[18] Entertainment Weekly rated the article with a B, noting “the music on Heroes is less diverse than Nelson’s tastes suggest — it’s all country lite — but there’s a real warmth in his work with his kids.”[19] The Independent praised the inclusion of guests, but described the pariticpation of Lukas Nelson’s as a “showcase”. American Songwriter remarked that the album followed Nelson’s usual patron of “offering up a populist mix of original compositions, covers of cowboy classics and contemporary songs in equal measure”, but criticized the inconsistency of the album. Meanwhile, the review also favored Lukas Nelson’s songwriting.

Track listing

All tracks performed by Willie Nelson.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “A Horse Called Music” (featuring Merle Haggard and Lukas Nelson) Wayne Carson 4:37
2. “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die” (featuring Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson) Willie Nelson, Buddy Cannon, Rich Alves, John Colgin and Mike McQuerry 3:25
3. “That’s All There Is To This Song” Buddy Cannon 3:01
4. “No Place To Fly” (featuring Lukas Nelson) Lukas Nelson 5:06
5. “Every Time He Drinks He Thinks Of Her” (featuring Lukas Nelson) Lukas Nelson 2:48
6. “Come On Up To The House” (featuring Lukas Nelson and Sheryl Crow) Tom Waits 5:16
7. “Hero” (featuring Billy Joe Shaver and Jamey Johnson) Willie Nelson 4:38
8. “My Window Faces the South” (featuring Lukas Nelson) Bob Wills 2:32
9. “The Sound Of Your Memory” (featuring Lukas Nelson) Lukas Nelson, Elizabeth Rainey 6:10
10. “Cold War With You” (featuring Lukas Nelson and Ray Price) Floyd Tillman 4:04
11. Just Breathe” (featuring Lukas Nelson) Eddie Vedder 4:02
12. “My Home In San Antone” (featuring Lukas Nelson) Fred Rose 4:09
13. “Come On Back Jesus” (featuring Billy Joe Shaver, Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson) Willie Nelson, Buddy Cannon and Micah Nelson 3:24
14. The Scientist Guy BerrymanJonny BucklandWill ChampionChris Martin 5:05
Total length:


  • Willie Nelson – guitar, vocals
  • Buddy Cannon – bass guitar and acoustic guitar, background vocals on “Heroes”
  • Melonie Cannon – background vocals on “Heroes”
  • Butch Carr – synthesizer
  • Steve Brewster – drums
  • Jim Brown – piano, Wurlitzer, B-3 organ
  • Tony Creasman – drums
  • Sheryl Crow – vocals
  • Kevin Grantt – bass
  • Kris Kristofferson – vocals
  • Merle Haggard – vocals
  • Jamey Johnson – vocals
  • Mike Johnson – steel guitar
  • Lance Miller – background vocals on “Heroes”
  • Lukas Nelson – vocals, guitar, electric guitar
  • Micah Nelson – vocals
  • Ray Price – vocals
  • Mickey Raphael – harmonica
  • Paul Shaffer – B-3 organ
  • Billy Joe Shaver – vocals
  • Snoop Dogg – vocals
  • Bobby Terry – electric guitar, acoustic guitar

Chart performance

Chart (2012) Peak
US Billboard Top Country Albums
US Billboard 200

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