Releasing an awe inspiring 73rd studio album just days from his 85th birthday, Willie Nelson delivers 11 new tracks that look at mortality face on. Along with his co-writer and producer Buddy Cannon these new songs feature incredibly sorrowful lyrics which, coupled with the tone of the album cover, suggests a sombre outing for Nelson. But beyond the powerful lyrics is a genuinely moving and upbeat country album that is difficult to stay still to.
Opening the album is the title track, which comments on Nelson’s age. He admits that it’s “getting hard to watch my pals check out” but despite this solemn verse the track is a fun, whimsical look at getting old. This is continued in Don’t Tell Noah as the beat speeds up. The country jig is in full swing now. With lines like “I been crazy all the time,” listeners will be singing along with Nelson’s humorous “don’t give up yet” attitude.
Along with the humour in these tracks there’s also Nelson’s signature insight, especially in Bad Breath, a song about an alcoholic who has the optimism to admit that bad breath is “better than no breath at all.” The track perfectly encapsulates the album’s tongue-in-cheek approach to life. Heaven is Closed is another humorous track that highlights Nelson’s wit as he considers what comes after death.
Something You Get Through is the exception. The only truly slow song on the album it looks at what it means to outlive the ones you love. Nelson laments that losing a loved one is not meant to be something you “get over.” To him it’s instead something, as the title states, you get through, as mourning becomes a part of you. This could be the track that most listeners attach to, it’s instantly relatable to anyone who has grieved.
With Last Man Standing, Willie Nelson shows few signs of his age. There’s plenty here to please the fans as well as make new ones. Few can achieve what he has, and to sound this good at 84 is simply astonishing. Nelson is a real legend.