Willie Nelson: A Beautiful Time – Reflections on the end of days

A Beautiful Time
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Artist: Willie Nelson
Genre: Country
Label: Legacy

Willie Nelson marks his 89th birthday with this impressive 14-track collection of the new, the blue and the venerable, all wrapped in his signature, easy, country sound but with the spectre of end of days a recurring theme. This is the maverick Texan's umteenth album – he released two last year – but despite such prodigious productivity he clearly continues to care about his work in the late autumn of a remarkable career.

Of the 14 tracks, Nelson contributes five, all co-written with longtime producer Buddy Cannon, with the rest selected to fit the theme of the sun setting as captured in the evocative cover of Nelson walking westwards, his back to camera, down the street of Luck, the faux town he built on his ranch outside Austin.

Sands of time

Rodney Crowell and Chris Stapleton's opener, I'll Love You Till the Day I Die, sets the reflective tone and the rest of the songs are either direct – the jaunty I Don't Go To Funerals ("and I won't go to mine") – or more oblique references to the sands of time such as Shawn Camp's title track ode to a musician's life.

There is the odd misstep: With A Little Help From My Friends is taken too fast, but another classic, Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song, is more attuned to Nelson’s wonderful voice. His singing, though understandably a little shaky at times, remains a model of timing and phrasing.


In truth he could sing the phonebook and make it sound interesting.