Willie Nelson dropped his latest album, God’s Problem Child, last Friday, on the day before his 84th (!) birthday. It’s remarkable enough that he’s still releasing new music at this age, but what’s really impressive about God’s Problem Child is that it’s a legitimately great record.
Things start off with “Little House on the Hill,” an uptempo number that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on one of Nelson’s peak 70s records. He sounds as energetic as ever here, and you can almost hear the big grin on his face when the chorus hits. The album gets more introspective after that, hitting listeners with two slow, sweet tunes in a row: “Old Timer” and “True Love.” The road was always rocky, he sings on “True Love.” Trouble waiting around every bend. I’ll go to hell believing/ True love, you’re still my friend. Death, lost love and old friends are common themes on God’s Problem Child, which I suppose one might expect when a man in his eighties is co-writing much of the material. But this is never really necessarily a sad album as much as it’s one full of reflection.
Other highlights include “Delete and Fast Forward,” Nelson’s amusing take on the current political climate, and the title track, which features guest vocals from Tony Joe White, Jamey Johnson and the late, great Leon Russell. Hearing Russell’s voice unexpectedly really grabbed my attention the first time around; even now, when I’m expecting it, it’s still a powerful moment.
Finally, the record closes with “He Won’t Ever Be Gone,” a tribute to Merle Haggard that features sly references to a number of Hag’s most popular songs. A fugitive and a brand new man, Nelson sings. Mama tried to understand/ Left us a lifetime of songs/ And he won’t ever be gone.
Nelson’s music fell off significantly in the late 80s and early 90s, but he recovered gracefully after that and has been putting out one strong album after another ever since. Django and Jimmie, the album he made with Merle Haggard in 2015, was one of my favorite Nelson albums to date—and now, I can safely the same thing about God’s Problem Child. May the man give us many more!
Listen below …