2018 CD REVIEW
LAST MAN STANDING (SONY-LEGACY)
SHOTGUN WILLIE LAST COWBOY IN THE SADDLE
“It's getting hard to watch my pals check out/ cuts like a wore out knife/ one thing I learned about runnin' the road/ is forever don't apply to life/ Waylon and Ray and Merle and old Norro/ lived just as fast as me/ I still got a lotta good friends left/ and I wonder who the next will be/ I don't wanna be the last man standing/ or wait a minute maybe I do.” - Last Man Standing - Willie Nelson-Buddy Cannon.
And, of course, there's fourth wife Annie whose Happy Blue Year Twitter accounts enabled him to invite the Trump chump to a pow-wow in one of many Texas-Mexico immigrant camps where the former unreality show host was trying to separate border hopping families from their children.
Within 24 hours of Willie's well publicised invite the policy was changed - not just because of the Red Headed Stranger but politicians Paul Ryan, Paul Begala, Rachel Maddow and Senator Dianne Feinstein and other humanitarians.
Nelson also has the recording careers of sons Lukas and Micah and daughter Amy of Folk Uke who have all toured here.
And then there's long-time producer Buddy Cannon - co-writer of all 11 songs on this disc.
The title track is a sibling of sorts of Heaven Is Closed where accommodation and crowding issues persuade Willie to stay where he is.
Yes, his movie town Luck.
Yes, you know what Willie tells visitors - “when you're in luck you are in luck, when you're not, you're out of luck.”
So, to be even handed, the singer burns one up for both the inhabitants of heaven and hell and those stuck in-between.
The third prong, so to speak, of his mortality treatise is the equally humorous Bad Breath with sage advice for the moaners who wail.
“Don't ever complain about nothing/ before we can walk, we all gotta crawl/ and halitosis is a word I could never spell/ but bad breath is better than no breath at all.”
NOAH AND JESUS - PERSECUTED PALS
“Don't tell Noah about the flood/ don't tell Jesus about the blood/ don't tell me that I've lost my mind/ cause I've been crazy all the time/ don't quit trying to change the government/ and see how wrong they went.” - Don't Tell Noah - Willie Nelson-Buddy Cannon.
Noah and fellow social comment anthem Me And You , where the narrator turns down the sound on the TV because of recurring bad news, are separated in sequencing by Bad Breath .
Willie's character and his soul-mate are fighting the forces of evil.
So it's poetic they segue into a little not so historic Willie widow wisdom in Something You Get Through.
Cannon vividly recalled the true life song source, inspired by a vivid memory on Nelson's famous Honeysuckle Rose bus three years ago in Austin.
A woman came on-board who Cannon didn't recognize but he could tell she and Nelson were old friends.
“I could just tell by the way Willie greeted her,” Cannon revealed, “and he had her sit down by him, and she was very emotional and tearful. She was talking about she was missing someone she had just lost.
“I don't know if it was a child or a husband, but Willie was listening to her and holding her hand on the table, and she said, ‘I just don't know how I'm going to get over this.' And Willie said, ‘It's not something you get over, but it's something you'll get through.' It just stuck in my brain, and I think I have thought that line every day since that day.”
A DOG, A CAT AND A HIP HOP HAT
“I got a dog, I got a cat/ an Iphone and a hip hop hat/ but I ain't got nothing/ cause you ain't here with me.” - I Ain't Got Nothing - Willie Nelson-Buddy Cannon.
This enables the artist to revert to honky tonk hedonism on Ready To Roar and I Ain't Got Nothing that are punctuated by Heaven Is Closed .
Willie's character leaves his bucolic boss in a sawdust slipstream in Ready To Roar but his joy turns to melancholia when his lover leaves a note but not his money in I Ain't Got Nothing .
“It's a lonesome old night and memories linger/ of when I gave you a ring/ then you gave me the finger.”
The ring bearer may be bereft of love but there's always the canine, cat and a hip hop hat.
And an unexpected bonus.
“I got a horse, I got a saddle/ I got a coffee shop in Seattle.”
Just proves there's solace when this star bucks.
Enough beans and puns as Willie's male lead boomerangs in love with She Made My Day (but it ruined my life.”
Mortality fears return in the reflective I'll Try To Do Better Next Time and the faded love finale Very Far To Crawl.
So why is this album, propelled by a brace of credible video clips featured on Nu Country TV, so memorable and a tribute to a seasoned survivor whose talent has not been diminished by time and tribulation?
“A lot of his people who he came up through the business with have gone on,” Cannon explained. “And we've lost a bunch of them within the last two or three years; people he's been close to a long time. And he's really almost the last one of them; maybe him, Bobby Bare and Bill Anderson. There are a few guys who are still around who saw the beginning of where we are now.”
Cannon is an important tour guide and team leader with his A-session studio supremos - including keyboard ace Jim Moose Brown, upright bassist Kevin Swine Grant, guitarists Bobby Terry and James Mitchell, drummer Eddie Bayers and Fred Eltringham - drums and percussion.
“I think I finally got the personnel in the band locked where I want them for this kind of a Willie record,” Cannon says.
“I try not to cut songs too many times. If I can get it on the first take, I'm a happy guy. I don't know why this one sounds so rocking. It's just different songs with the lyrics, the feel and the rhythm I guess.”
Cannon has met celebrities diverse as former President Jimmy Carter, Texan singing crime novelist Kinky Friedman and actors Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey and James Caan on Willie's Honeysuckle Rose bus.
“Every conceivable celebrity that you can think of, they all know Willie and want to be around him,” Cannon confessed, he has an unbelievably strong magnetism. I'm sure everybody would like to hang out with him.”
But that wasn't where Willie met Buddy, a rising songwriter for Floridian singing actor and song publisher Mel Tillis who died at 85 on November 19, 2017, after also recording with Bobby Bare and the later Jerry Reed and Waylon as The Old Dogs .
“Mel had bought a radio station in Amarillo, and he planned a listener appreciation show and asked Willie to do it,” Cannon recalled.
“Mel asked me and another songwriter, Buzz Rabin, if I wanted to ride down there, go to the show and hang out.
“Buzz had a couple of joints, and he said, ‘You want to meet Willie?' And I said, ‘Heck yeah.'” When Rabin procured Nelson from his bus, they scavenged the venue's backstage area for a discreet place to smoke.
“So, me, Buzz and Willie are walking down the corridor of this coliseum in Amarillo pulling on doors as we're passing,” Cannon recalled.
“And the first one we come to that's unlocked is a broom closet. It was about big enough for four or five people to stand in I guess. That was my first actual contact with Willie. I really didn't get to know him until much later. It's a funny first introduction.”
And also no surprise that Cannon was the co-writer on other Willie classics Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die and Still Not Dead Yet.