How do you stare down the fact that your days are numbered? That's the question hovering over the latest album from country legend Willie Nelson. The soon-to-be 85-year-old has watched all the artists that inspired him and nearly all those who were part of his outlaw posse make their final transitions. Sad, yes, but a dull inevitability. Rather than lament his fate, Nelson is facing it with the same humor, humility and gravitas that has marked his entire career.
"I don't want to be the last man standing," intones the most recognizable voice in country music over the driving rumba of his 67th studio LP's title track. "But, wait a minute," he second-guesses the punch line. "Maybe I do." Willie Nelson's 12th collaboration with co-producer and co-songwriter Buddy Cannon proves every bit as fruitful as the last 11, here yielding 11 killer new originals in a creative renaissance that's seen Abbott's first son release three of his strongest sets, including 2014's Band of Brothers and 2017's God's Problem Child, all country chart-toppers.
Willie Nelson started singing about the end of the line a while back but now that he's in his mid-eighties, he's so accustomed to having death lurking around the corner that he can kid about it. That's precisely what he does throughout Last Man Standing, an album that serves as a jocular counterpart to its predecessor, God's Problem Child. Nelson didn't avoid humor on that record, but the vibe seemed haunted by a looming sense that the clock is ticking away.
"Heaven is closed/And hell's overcrowded," Willie Nelson sings on his new album. "So I think I'll just stay where I am." Just one year after his unsuspecting opus God's Problem Child, Nelson, 84, is back with Last Man Standing, the latest in his series of late-career ruminations helmed by producer Buddy Cannon. Whereas last year's God's Problem Child found Nelson staring down death in the mirror on meditations like "Old Timer" and "True Love," this record finds the honky-tonk prophet satirizing the slow march of time with humorous musings set to a comfortable blend of Western swing and roadhouse blues.
Outlaw Willie Nelson wrote Last Man Standing with producer Buddy Cannon, using modern technology to communicate their ideas via text messages. The 11-track album is another entry into the authentic story of an 84-year old country legend.
The title track is country folk and bluegrass, while keeping a blues rock melody and a rockabilly vibe. "Don't Tell Noah" is a western swing number with a clean-sounding electric guitar. The lyrics in "Bad Breath," a slow-tempo track about an alcoholic, are witty while a pedal steel guitar adds depth ….