Willie Nelson: Last Man Standing review – the outlaw king’s still got it


To celebrate his 85th birthday Willie Nelson releases an album of 11 original songs… there are very few pop luminaries of whom one could write that sentence, perhaps only country’s outlaw king. Nelson has responded to his advancing years by being ever more prolific, spraying out albums by favourite composers, albums of archive material (Willie’s Stash), and albums of new songs, plus countless guest appearances.

This 73rd studio album stands out from the somewhat erratic output, a winning mixture of confessionals, nostalgia and humour, co-written with producer Buddy Cannon. You can rely on Willie to come up with defiant, wisdom-of-age pieces such as Something You Get Through and Bad Breath (“is better than no breath at all”), but there’s also sly wit in the New Orleans shuffle of the title track (“I don’t want to be the last man standing/ Oh wait a minute, maybe I do…”) and Don’t Tell Noah, where Nelson admits he’s “been crazy all the time”.

Nelson and Cannon mix up the musical styles, with a brace of cuts that hark back to the ballroom Western Swing of Nelson’s youth. Willie rattles off his lines with trademark insouciance, as much spoken as sung, and still plays an acoustic guitar with jazzy panache. What a legend.

Watch the video for Last Man Standing by Willie Nelson.


Neil Spencer

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Willie Nelson: Ride Me Back Home review – upbeat and defiant

Neil Spencer

07, Jul, 2019 @7:01 AM

Article image
Steve Earle: So You Wannabe an Outlaw review – winning homage to Willie and Waylon

Neil Spencer

18, Jun, 2017 @7:00 AM

Band of Brothers review – Willie Nelson on gleeful, defiant form

The octogenarian outlaw's stuttering guitar and laid-back delivery remain unique and oddly touching, writes Neil Spencer

Neil Spencer

14, Jun, 2014 @11:01 PM

Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel: Willie and the Wheel | CD review
Willie Nelson regains his master's touch on a collaboration with Asleep at the Wheel, says Neil Spencer

Neil Spencer

05, Jun, 2010 @11:05 PM

Article image
Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie: December Day review – a worthy indulgence
The country veteran’s latest collection of oldies, favourites and the odd new track makes for hugely comfortable listening, writes Neil Spencer

Neil Spencer

30, Nov, 2014 @12:05 AM

Willie Nelson: The Outlaw, Graeme Thomson

He's had highs and he's had lows but throughout it all country's 'outlaw' has remained his own man says Neil Spencer.

19, Mar, 2006 @12:32 AM

Willie Nelson - an outlaw to the last

The prolific songwriter has taken up some interesting causes of late, making him an icon for our times

Alan McGee

18, Apr, 2008 @7:00 AM

Willie Nelson, Hammersmith Apollo, London

Hammersmith Apollo, London

Ian Gittins

15, May, 2008 @11:27 PM

Article image
Willie Nelson, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

James Smart

29, Mar, 2005 @11:28 AM

CD: Willie Nelson and the Cardinal, Songbird

Country titan felled by mad axeman Ryan Adams

Neil Spencer

15, Oct, 2006 @2:11 PM