Willie Nelson, the self-proclaimed “young bull rider” in his song “Old Timer,” released his latest album on the day before his 84th birthday, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. This country album is more polished than usual for Willie Nelson, with simple songwriting and full arrangements supporting his strong voice and the straightforward stories within each song.
The album reflects on the past, with Nelson looking back on his life with fond nostalgia and moments of regret. In his song “I Made a Mistake,” Nelson plainly takes responsibility for a past mistake, asking for the Lord’s intervention and understanding. The song “God’s Problem Child” is a collaboration with Tony Joe White, Leon Russell, and Jamey Johnson exploring the sinful nature of humanity, yet revealing God’s generous love during the refrain that affirms “Heaven must love God’s problem child.”
Authenticity in country music manifests itself through artists who share their own experiences, and thus this album also explores the present joys and challenges of old age for Willie Nelson. In his song “It Gets Easier,” he finds the positives of less responsibility in old age. He also explores the deaths of friends, including a close country music colleague, Merle Haggard, in the song “He Won’t Ever Be Gone.”
Finally, the album takes a light-hearted look at the future, mainly at death. If Willie Nelson has any fears of dying, he doesn’t reveal them in his music. In the song “Still Not Dead,” he jokes about the numerous false reports on the Internet of his death. Other songs allude to the inevitable passage from life that all humans must face one day.
The album is a collection of honest songs of sadness and regret, but also humor and life. His songs may be particularly powerful for those who’ve recently experienced the death of a loved one or for those who are wrestling with their own mortality. (Sony)