Album Review: Willie Nelson’s ‘God’s Problem Child’

It seems that there are two schools of thoughts to Willie Nelson’s latest album. When you hear the nostalgia, and yearning of tracks like “Little House On The Hill” or the simple approach of “Old Timer,” you get a picture of a man looking back at a life and career that have definitely been well lived. Add the emotional firepower of “He Won’t Ever Be Gone,” a heartfelt tribute to the “Lefty” to his “Pancho” – Merle Haggard, and you almost hear a Nelson who senses a changing time, and maybe an artist that is staring his own mortality in the face. (If one believes all the rumors swirling about Nelson, he recorded this album on his death bed….and he sounds better than the press is giving him credit for, as he jovially says on the playful “Still Not Dead.”)

But, there’s another side to this album – one that stands as a warning to Father Time – Nelson isn’t going to go quietly in the night. The ‘Red Headed Stranger’ has never done anything in that fashion, and at age 84, the singer continues to come out swinging on all cylinders. He takes a good-natured swipe at the new Presidential administration in “Delete and Fast Forward,” which proves that his writing chops are as tight and as feisty as ever. He partners up with Tony Joe White, Jamey Johnson, and the late Leon Russell on the murky and moody title cut, which stands as one of his most introspective lyrics as of late – though he is acting as interpreter here, as Johnson and White penned the tune.

As a tunesmith, his pen can still have a magic way with a love song, as he proves on “True Love,” but perhaps his best overall moment on this disc comes on the hilarious “I Made A Mistake,” which sounds – age and all – as if you could mix it in with some of his greatest work, and it would be right at home. The song has two essential ingredients to his magic, his trusty sidekick guitar, “Trigger,” and his humor, which proves to be timeless.

One day, time will catch up to Willie Nelson. But, judging from the music here, I think that fate is going to take him away kicking and screaming. His genius on this album is as telling as it ever has been, I’m glad to report!