Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child

Album Review | Legacy | Review by Steve Henderson | Stars: 4/5

Into his eighties, still touring, still recording, Willie Nelson has an energy and career that has never stopped revealing musical treasure.  God’s Problem Child is the first album of new songs since his Band of Brothers release in 2014.  And, yes, it’s another treasure trove of great songs.  With his advancing years, it’s almost inevitable that he’s in reflective mode considering mortality and all that brings with it.  Please don’t let that put you off by assuming that this is a depressing collection of songs that would even turn off the ‘dark is beautiful’ crowd.  No, this is a master songwriter that can offer songs that bring a tear to the eye as well as those that make you chuckle too.  That wit turns up in songs with titles that speak for themselves like “Your Memory Has A Mind Of Its Own” and “Still Not Dead” with the latter poking fun at past exaggerated reports of his demise.  While he’s clearly still on fine form, let’s not ignore the assistance Willie gets from Buddy Cannon, producer and co-composer of seven of these songs including the two already mentioned.  The songs aren’t all focussed on death and, in what is becoming standard for any US release, he has his say on the recent election of Donald Trump.  Pointing out the country had the chance to be ‘brilliant again’ but blew it, on a song with the advisory title of “Delete and Fast Forward”.  Similarly, there’s a beautiful version of “A Woman’s Love” which considers the comfort that love provides us in life.  The centre piece title track deserves a special mention with its wonderful slow blues and consideration of how God doesn’t call time on life for bad behaviour.  Written by Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White and featuring the distinctive vocals of the latter as well as Leon Russell on, possibly, his last recording, it’s a classic worthy of being adopted for use as the album title.  While on the topic of the dear departed, the album closes with an affectionate cover of Gary Nicholson’s tribute to Merle Haggard, “He Won’t Ever Be Gone”.  By the way, check out their 2015 record with the tongue in cheek duet “It’s All Going To Pot”.  Whilst I can’t confirm that Nelson’s longevity results from his well recorded views on the benefits of cannabis, it’s no hallucination that with albums like this one he’ll never be gone.