Friday, May 18, 2018


While Bob Dylan's been mumbling the Sinatra songbook the last few years, and we're all supposed to be amazed, Willie, a full nine years older at 85, has reared back the last couple of albums and started writing at a pace he hasn't in a couple of decades. On this new one, he's co-written every one of the 11 cuts, with his producer Buddy Cannon, who seems responsible for the renewed writing streak. I've certainly enjoyed Nelson's albums for years, and I don't think he's put out a weak one since before the '90's. Even his tribute discs to old country pals and heroes have been lots of fun. But boy, is it inspiring to hear all this solid new material.

Sure, Nelson addresses his age, but it's in a light-hearted, what-the-hell way, not pondering about what it all means. If you listen to Willie, it don't mean shit. "Heaven is closed and hell's overcrowded, I think I'll just stay where I am," he tells us, not sounding too worried about where he ends up and when. On the title cut, he namechecks several departed pals, "Waylon and Ray and Merle," while changing his mind about sticking around longer than them: "I don't want to be the last man standing/But wait a minute maybe I do." Most hilariously, apparently on a dare, he wrote a number called Bad Breath: "Bad breath is better than no breath at all."

It's not completely played for laughs though, and Nelson as ever proves he's a master at tearing your heart out. Addressing anyone who has lost a great love in their life, he sings "It's not something you get over, but it's something you get through." As always, plain-spoken lines are the most powerful. So will the writing streak continue? Well, Willie's got another surprise up his sleeve. His next album is going to be a set of Sinatra covers. Take that, Dylan.

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