Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Album Review: Willie Nelson- God's Problem Child

Willie Nelson
God's Problem Child
**** out of *****

The American legend Willie Nelson has released his 1,794th album, God's Problem Child. Unlike a lot of his latest releases this record features seven new songs written by Willie and his songwriting partner/producer Buddy Cannon. The end result is an easy going album that is the best the red headed stranger has produced in years.

The disk opens with a unique cover as Willie sings his song writing partner's mother Lyndel Rhodes original song "Little House On The Hill". Willie and crew put a smile on her face (and ours) with their mid tempo moving before the piano ballad of of "Old Timer" penned by Donnie Fritz and Lenny LeBlanc. These torch tunes fit Willie's affecting vocals perfectly, ringing utterly true.

The first new Nelson/Cannon tune arrives with the bluesy "True Love" containing excellent midnight lounge style female backing vocals and it is quickly followed by Willie's take on the recent presidential election "Delete and Fast Forward", a well produced Americana take that basically states, meet the new boss...you know the rest.

The first single is a Latino influenced slow burner titled "A Woman's Love" and it is the sexiest the 84 year old has been in ages as his breathy vocals front a smoke filled cantina at dusk. That song along with the swampy steam of the title track are album highlights, the latter features guest vocals from Jamey Johnson, one of Leon Russell's final vocal tracks along with the fantastic sounding Tony Joe White; oh yeah the picking ain't half bad either.

The majority of the new compositions are solid from top to bottom. Wilson can turn a phrase like few others, whether its "Lady Luck" cowboy/poker wisdom or "Your Memory Has A Mind of It's Own" the singer eases into the vocal and owns it. Almost even more impressive, on all of the new originals there is also space for Nelson's underrated acoustic guitar playing that has jazzy flashes and off kilter strums that work wonderfully.

Not all the selections are perfect, "Butterfly" feels a bit too theatrical for this collection and could have been saved for another release while "It Get's Easier's" is a pleasant tune but feels a touch redundant in this collection of songs that deal with the passage of time.

However, the closing ode to his good friend Merle Haggard "He Won't Ever Be Gone" (written by Gary Nicholson) is heartfelt but perhaps a better snapshot of this disk is the rollicking while winking quickie "Still Not Dead". It cooks along with piano, harmonica and a sense of humor that encompasses his late career and premature internet rumors of his demise. He certainly isn't dead, and you better thank whatever higher power there is that he is also still on top of his game.
Support the American legend, buy the album, stream it for a limited time at NPR and peep some video below:

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