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WILLIE NELSON —GOD’S PROBLEM CHILD (Legacy Recordings, Sony Entertainment)

What can I say about Texas’ legend, singer-songwriter Willie Nelson that’s not be said, other than he is without doubt living proof real country music isn’t dead. God’s Problem Child is his 9th (since the series started in 2012) release for Legacy recordings, and once again he defies father time, his vocals still cut it. After seeing some of the recent shaky shots on You Tube I feared for the outcome of the album, but no his music still has soul, and the man himself a great deal of humour too!


Six of the tracks are co-writes with his old friend Buddy Cannon, and there is even one from Cannon’s mother, now 92 years-old Lyndel Rhodes “Little House On The Hill”.  What a delightful piece it is. Warmed in Mickey Raphael's trademark harmonica and Willie’s guitar, trigger it oozes traditional sounds rich in warmth.  Other songs outside Cannon and himself Willie pays tribute to his late old friend, Merle Haggard via Gary Nicholson’s “He Won’t Be Forever Gone” and the Jamey Johnson – Tony Joe White co-write, title-track “God’s Problem Child”. The boys, plus the late Leon Russell also contribute as vocalists, and in the case of TJW, some guitar too. A moody song that speaks of someone struggling to get out of the mud, and despite it all heaven must love God’s problem child. With TJW in particular sounding in top form it is a real treasure. Another imported cut is “Old Timer” (Donnie Fritts – Lenny LeBlanc), and given the wistfulness of the song (steeped in gentle acoustic guitar, harmonica, Wurlitzer (Jim ‘Moore’ Brown) and pedal steel (Bobby Terry) it has a prophetic feel.   


When it comes to regal beauty Nelson ticks all the boxes on “It Get’s Easier”, a pretty little piece his co-write with Cannon enjoys an understated production and, it has for company the equally fine “Lady Luck”. While with a little of old swagger and melody from yesteryear “I Made A Mistake” combines wry humour with a hooky feel to pull the listener in. Loaded in pedal steel, piano and harmonica it has hit written all over it! Picking up the tempo Willie and Buddy’s look at the American election and the outcome as “Delete And Fast Forward” speaks how it is all one big circle. Musically, it did little for me. Same might be said of the Mike Reid and Sam Hunter’s tune “A Woman’s Love”; Sonny Throckmorton – Mark Sherrill’s fares better. But it doesn’t hold a candle to Nelson – Cannon bright ‘n breezy, auto-biographical (Willie) “Still Not Dead”. A song that shakes off all the cobwebs! Additional musicians include Ben Haggard (guitar, harmony vocals) on “He Won't Be Forever Gone”, and Alison Krauss (harmony vocals) and a member of her band, upright bass player Barry Bales.  


                                                    Maurice Hope  

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April 2018

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