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Willie Nelson

Last Man Standing – 2018 (Sony Legacy)

Reviewed by Robert Loy

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CDs by Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson is 123 years old and this is his 85th album. .

No, that's not right, He's 85 and this is something like his 123rd album. At a certain point, the years and the numbers don't mean much any more. The bottom line is Willie Nelson has been around for a long time and made a lot of music. Willie will forever be remembered for the song "Whiskey River," but his voice has mellowed like a fine wine. Time has taken away much of the harshness and the off-flavors, if you will. The arrangements on this CD are kept spare to accentuate this often-intoxicating quality.

Willie spends some time on this album ruminating about aging and coming to terms with the fact that he is the last of his contemporaries still perpendicular to planet Earth. It is surprising when you figure "Waylon and Ray and Merle . . . lived just as fast as me" (on the title track). He concludes that although getting older involves grief and sacrifice, ("Something You Get Through") "Bad breath is better than no breath at all" (Bad Breath"). Besides, "Heaven is closed and hell's overcrowded / so I'll just stay where I am ("Heaven's Closed").

"I'll Try to do Better Next Time" has a similar reincarnation theme to the Highwaymen's classic "Highwayman", but the self-centeredness of that song is replaced by zen wisdom and acceptance "The Good Book says love everybody and the Lord knows I've tried / So I'll throw a kiss to the ones that I missed and I'll try to do better next time."

It's not all about aging and escaping karma, "Me and You" finds Willie taking a hard look at the increasing polarization in these not-so-united United States. And "Ready to Roar" is a good old-fashioned party song.

Some recent, admittedly-controversial studies have shown that marijuana use can slow the aging process, prevent Alzheimer's disease and help older people stay creative and productive. Ladies and gentlemen, exhibit A.