Overturning customary ideas about older artists slowing down, Nelson – now 86 – has been in prodigious form over the past decade, pumping out a dozen albums of assorted duets, originals, covers and tributes. Nine months after My Way, his homage to Sinatra, comes this final instalment in a trilogy (with 2017’s God’s Problem Child and 2018’s Last Man Standing) in which mortality looms large.
In contrast to the sombre hues of late era Johnny Cash, Nelson has kept his tone buoyant – defiant and droll as often as reflective, moods maintained here on three numbers penned with producer Buddy Cannon. Seven Year Itch has Willie “riding my mind round my neighbourhood”, while Come On Time battles ageing. Two songs from the late Guy Clark, Immigrant Eyes and My Favorite Picture of You, supply rueful gravitas, while Stay Away From Lonely Places brilliantly resurrects a 1972 Nelson obscurity. Only the title track, written by Sonny Throckmorton, gets sloppy, a mawkish tribute to the stable of 70 retired horses Nelson has saved from the knacker’s yard. The voice has weathered like timber, but his timing is impeccable, his Tex-Mex guitar flurries thrilling. The cowboy sage (and Beto Democrat) remains unique.