Preview God's Problem Child by Willie Nelson.
God's Problem Child by Willie Nelson
Having seen so many of his generation and several considerably younger pass away over the past year or so it is almost a sense of relief that greets this new release from Willie Nelson. Not only that but God’s Problem Child is an album of great depth that shows a master very much on top of his game. Willie Nelson may be 84 and this his 61st studio album but it is by no means an honourable slide into retirement, but his best for a couple of decades.
God’s Problem Child is very much a close collaboration with producer and co-writer, Buddy Cannon, a first-class artist in his own right. But putting these two together makes for an album of consistently high quality in both composition and sound. What I like most is the simplicity of the stripped back production that allows Nelson’s voice its still wide range. Like the whiskey Willie and his outlaw friends must have drunk, this is one to savour as it slips down and warms the entire being.
Nelson covers a lot of ground in this collection and it’s hard to pick out a winner because of the range of styles and lyrics but I’ll go for "Delete and Fast Forward" because he is an activist who says what he thinks. An almost menacing rhythm propels his low opinion of last year’s presidential election. However, with his own long perspective Nelson offers as good way of getting through the next four years as I've come across. "Still Not Dead" is a tongue in cheek assessment of where this 84 year old finds himself, “the internet said I’ve passed away”, but not true. Set to a jaunty honky- tonk, we hope the title remains true for a long time yet. "He Won’t Ever Be Gone” also deals with death but this time, it is very sad being about Nelson’s dear friend Merle Haggard who died last year. The song is a beautiful and heart-rending tribute to a great man of country music.
This is not purely a collaboration of only two. The title track is a line-up of giants where Nelson is joined by Jamey Johnson, Tony Joe White and Leon Russell, one of his last appearances. Its sultry bluesy feel bonds these artists as one. Another guest is Alison Krauss whose crystal clear voice so complements Nelson’s wistful lyrics on both.’Little House on the Hill’ and ‘True Love’.
These are just my picks, the rest of the record is excellent too. There is no doubt Nelson is grappling with his own mortality but this is no introspective ramble. With great humour he has flicked a finger to the Grim Reaper and produced one of his best albums in a very long time. Here's to the next one.