In retrospect, having Jimmy Webb record new versions of classic songs from his back catalog with artists who have either recorded or been profoundly influenced by his work seems like a pretty obvious idea. But it wasn’t until 2010′s Just Across the River that Webb did this, inviting the likes of Billy Joel, Lucinda Williams and Linda Ronstadt to sing duets with him on favorites such as “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston” and “All I Know.” It went well enough to spawn this follow-up, which is even more rewarding.
That’s largely because of Webb’s willingness to venture beyond the best-known chapters of his songbook. “Sleeping in the Daytime,” from his 1970 debut, never charted for anyone, but Lyle Lovett pushes him to a dynamic remake of the tune here. On “Where’s The Playground Susie,” a minor Glen Campbell hit in 1969, Webb finds another country singer who gets the power of a great melody in Keith Urban. The graceful ballad “Adios,” a late-’80s album highlight for Ronstadt, is a perfect fit for the rich warmth of Amy Grant’s voice. And when Webb does turn to one of his major songs — the pop-classical juggernaut “MacArthur Park” — he taps no less than Brian Wilson to fill in the multilayered harmonies.