Willie Nelson, “Last Man Standing” — “The strongest yet” (review)

Willie Nelson, Last Man Standing

www.austinchronicle.com
by: Tim Stegall

“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.

The playing bristles with energy, led by crackling drums, Mickey Raphael’s wailing harmonica, and the seasoned bark of the singer’s stalwart guitar Trigger taking pride of place in Cannon’s sonically rich production. Front and center is that familiar, reedy voice, aged to perfection and delivering some of the best lines he’s written. Country-boogie groover “Don’t Tell Noah” advises, “Don’t quit trying to change the government and make them see how wrong they went.” Meanwhile, drinker’s waltz “Bad Breath” laments, “Halitosis is a word I never could spell, but bad breath is better than no breath at all.”

Willie Nelson, 85, keeps going from strength-to-strength, and Last Man Standing is the strongest yet.

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