Although he has had to cancel a few shows lately because of illness, 83 year old Willie Nelson is still touring and releasing records at a pace which puts to shame artists a quarter of his age. His latest album is his 62st studio album, and although it is his first of brand new songs for some time, he has written a good proportion of the songs here.
Opener ‘Little House On The Hill’, written by producer Buddy Cannon’s 90-something mother Lyndel Rhodes, has a charmingly old fashioned feel. The delicate piano/harmonica ballad ‘Old Timer;, written by Donnie Fritts and Lenny Le Blanc, Is a pensive reflection on growing old and outliving friends. Understated and beautiful, this is excellent.
‘True Love’, one of a number of songs Willie wrote with Buddy Cannon, is sweetly optimistic. ‘Your Memory Has A Mind Of Its Own’ is a lovely, very traditional country tune about battling with heartbreak. Another favorite is the irony-tinged, ‘I Made A Mistake’:
I told a big lie, Lord
And then I forgot
I thought I was Jesus
And believe me I’m not
I thought I was right
And I was wrong by a lot
‘It Gets Easier’ is a plaintive ballad about love and loss. ‘Lady Luck is about compulsive gamblers.
The wrily amusing ‘Still Not Dead’ was inspired by an erroneous report of Willie’s death:
I woke up still not dead again today
The internet said I had passed away…
I run up and down the road makin’ music as I go
They say my pace would kill a normal man
But I’ve never been accused of bein’ normal anyway
More cynical, ‘Delete And Fast Forward’ is a rare venture by Willie into political commentary.
‘A Woman’s Love’ is a loungy jazz ballad written by Sam Hunter and Mike Reid:
A woman’s love is stronger than a man’s
But it can hold your heart in the palm of his hands.
It’ll keep the faith through the long dark night
It takes a woman’s love, a woman’s love
To see the light.
It’ll make you fly
Sink you like a stone,
It’ll leave you high
Or leave you all alone.
You’ll believe her word
No matter what you’ve heard
Anybody say about it
There’s no life for you without it now
Sonny Throckmorton and Mark Sherrill wrote the gentle, pretty ‘Butterfly’. Tony Joe White and Jamey Johnson wrote the title track, a gloomy blues gospel tune about failure and the enduring love of God. The pair, plus the late Leon Russell, also guest on the song.
The album closes with a touching tribute to Merle Haggard. Gary Nicholson actually wrote ‘He Won’t Ever Be Gone’, but it sounds as if Willie did, with its fond memories of both the musician and the man.
Willie is in surprisingly strong voice given his age and hectic schedule. Combined with the excellent songs included, this is a really good album by a living legend who is still at (or at least not far off) the height of his powers.