In 1962 a short haired, clean shaven 29-year-old songwriter by the name of Willie Nelson appeared on the cover of his very first record …And Then I Wrote wearing a dress shirt, suite jacket and tie, the album’s title alluding to the number of hit songs the young talented twentysomething had already penned for Country music stars Faron Young, Ray Price and Patsy Cline. In the 55 years since the ever prolific red headed stranger has not only substantially altered his image, he has amassed an unprecedented number of studio albums to his credit, over 100 in fact, when factoring in albums Nelson recorded himself or as part of a collaborating duo, trio or group. When tabulated accordingly this makes Nelson’s aptly titled latest release Last Man Standing his 101st album to date (take THAT Rob Pollard!). What’s even more amazing is how surprisingly spry the timeless 85-year-old Nelson sounds throughout. From start to finish this record swings with upbeat outlaw Country beats, its core sound indebted to the talents Mickey Raphael on harmonica, Jim “Moose” Brown on B3 organ and all three lap steel players Bobby Terry, Mike Johnson and Tommy White. Throughout Nelson, with the help of his 70-year-old song writing partner Buddy Cannon (who also produced the album) takes an unexpectedly upbeat approach when confronting loss and mortality, themes expected from a man of his advanced years, while joyously espousing the many benefits of growing old, most importantly not being dead. After outliving fellow Sun Records recording artists Charlie Rich and Roy Orbison, the last surviving member of the Million Dollar Quartet (Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley) “Killer” Jerry Lee Lewis brazenly announced at the age of 71 through the title of his 2006 “comeback” album that he was indeed the Last Man Standing. 12 years later the 85-year-old Nelson (two years older than Jerry Lee) begs to differ. And with the passing of Chuck Berry last year at age 90 this could very well be the beginning of one downright colossal octogenarian battle between two titans of popular song fighting it out to the last breath for the title. According to Willie, “I don’t want to be the last man standing, on second thought, maybe I do”.
Star Rating: 3.5/5
2018 Song Of The Day Club Album Review 18/52