Album Review: Willie Nelson - God's Problem Child
By Ian Bremner
The ageless wonder that is Willie Nelson. It’s difficult to imagine a figure like Nelson is even real. He has outlasted his sometimes cartoonish stoner reputation to remain a country music legend well into 2017 which, if you take the state of country music as an industry, is quite comical. He can do a song with Snoop Dogg, make a reggae album, and follow it up with a Ray Price tribute record years later like nothing happened. He can do covers, duets, fingerpick or just plain sing. Nelson has made over 100 albums, not all of them great, but that’s what makes him great. His new record, God’s Problem Child, is one of the truly exceptional ones.
You would be hard pressed to ever find a more self-aware 83-year-old. Willie knows even he is not immortal, an idea he explores rather bluntly on the new record. Over the last year, anytime Willie Nelson starts trending on the Internet, a virtual and collective gasp takes place as we nervously click to see what the news may be. More often than not, it’s usually just Willie being Willie. God’s Problem Child is vintage Willie. There is some modern production, but for the most part it’s a stripped back vehicle for some poignant lyrics, much like Red Headed Stranger or Shotgun Willie. After David Bowie and Leonard Cohen’s last albums, listeners may take liberty to listen deeper, to find darker meaning in the lyrics. Nelson toys with this concept with the jaunty track, "Still Not Dead," which is about checking the Internet and reading about his death, but in reality, NOPE - still not dead. Getting older is the main theme of the record, yet he’s never unhappy about it. Some of the album’s standouts like "Old Timer," his Merle-tribute "He Won’t Ever Be Gone" and "It Gets Easier" are about the pure beauty of old age.
Willie Nelson is the type of legend that can live off his name, but he continues to push forward, which is truly inspiring. God’s Problem Child may go back in time style-wise, but it is as modern a country record as you will find.