fri 17/08/2018

CD: Willie Nelson - Last Man Standing | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Willie Nelson - Last Man Standing

CD: Willie Nelson - Last Man Standing

Still standing tall: Willie Nelson in late, great mode

Willie Nelson turned 85 at the end of April, a few days after releasing his latest album and a rare set of self-penned new songs, Last Man Standing. “I don’t want to be the last man standing,” he sings slyly on the shuffling, restless opener, “Oh wait a minute, maybe I do…” Last man standing? In several key contexts, that’s exactly what he is. One of the last surviving Highwaymen, a veteran as well as instigator of Texan Outlaw country as we know it, a Nashville songwriter from its 1950s heyday whose signature songs look set to stay with us till the end of time, or until the party’s over, and a poet-singer of the highest order whose fingers still work ineffable magic across the strings of his fellow-travelling guitar, Trigger.

Last Man Standing is the latest in his collaboration with producer/songwriter Buddy Cannon, which began with an early morning text message from Willie’s handset in 2011 which read “Roll me up and smoke me when I die”, and went on to roll into the superb Band of Brothers album of 2014. God’s Problem Child, a fine if less uniformly successful solo album, came out last year, but with Last Man Standing, with its warm, intimate live-in-the-studio feel, and plenty of Western Swing-inspired licks, Nelson has once again hit the motherlode. You’d have to go back to Spirit and Teatro from 1990s for songs of equivalent intimacy and sharp-eyed wit. Some of the song titles read like bumper stickers – take “Bad Breath” (is better than no breath at all); proof positive that halitosis can serve up a mordant country classic – and the hilarious, old-school tears-in-my-beer confessional of “She Made My Day” (and ruined my life). Elsehwere “You and Me” kicks off with turning off the TV news in the age of Trump – Nelson doesn’t mince his words while adeptly hitting the spot – while "Something You Get Through" is a tender, insightful slice of inner life and how you deal with the bad stuff that fortune slings in your path.

Throughout, there’s not a weak song in earshot, just sharp, funny and insightful lyrics and assured, in-the-pocket musicianship, free of the sheen that features on some of his 21st-century releases, and full of the heart and soul of his best work - of which there is a high volume to be heard here. I'd say the best of these songs could sit beside "Nightlife" or "Funny How Times Slip Away" as stone-cold classics. At 85, he's still got it, and in spades. You’ve got to hope this last man standing stays upright for a few more albums yet.

Nelson has once again hit the motherlode

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters