Much like Johnny Cash on 'Hurt,' Willie Nelson makes fans aware of his fragile mortality with an evocative cover of Pearl Jam's 'Just Breathe.' The famous country singer is joined by his son Lukas on this first listen of music from the upcoming 'Heroes' album. Together, they silence the room. Only a stone will keep from fighting tears after a few listens.

"Yes, I understand that every life must end, uh-huh / As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, uh-huh," the elder Nelson begins before his son -- a higher pitched version of the original -- chimes in with with "Oh I'm a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love / Some folks just have one, yeah, others, they've got none."

Releasing this song as the 'focus track' is quite a statement. Sure, fans knew the 78-year-old legend wouldn't be around forever, but no one was ever forced to acknowledge it. More than that, the Nelsons leave any well-balanced fan of country music hurting for his or her own lost loves -- or at the very least reaching for the shoulder of someone whose presence may have gone unacknowledged for too long.

"Stay with me / Let's just breathe." Six simple words with so much meaning float with small shadows over the gentle acoustic and moody steel guitars. "Did I say that I need you / Did I say that I want you / Oh if I didn't I'm a fool you see / No one knows this more than me / As I come clean."

It's hard to tell if the remainder of 'Heroes' (in stores May 15) will also carry the burden of Nelson's scars, but a quick peak at the track listing indicates a more diverse set of songs than the 'American Recordings' projects Cash put together before his death. 'Roll Me Up an Smoke Me When I Die' is hardly a swan song. Almost unnoticed is Lukas Nelson's performance, which proves him more than capable to carry on the Nelson legacy after his father retires to God's honkytonk.

5 Stars

Listen to Willie Nelson, 'Just Breathe'

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