- 07 Aug 19
Three times over the last few years I’ve speculated that I was reviewing the Red Headed Stranger’s last album. You’re not catching me out again, old pal. Here then is Big Willie’s latest and, as usual, it’s a thing of gentle beauty.
All the requisite ingredients are here: Willie’s immortal guitar Trigger alternately twangs or sweetly strums, Mickey Raphael’s harmonica wails and the drums are brushed at a suitably stately pace because, you know, what’s the hurry? Willie’s unlikely to change horses at this late stage. The title track has all of the above, our man asking for “a much better place, blues skies and sunshine and plenty of space, somewhere they would just leave you alone, somewhere you could call home.” Who could want for more?
“Come on time, looks like you’re winning the race” old Admirable Nelson sings against a jaunty background, but it certainly doesn’t sound like a man who’s too concerned. This record has been referred to as part of, alongside the recent God’s Problem Child and Last Man Standing, a “trilogy about mortality”, but that assignation doesn’t really match up to the sly smile that songs like the slow crawling blues ‘Seven Year Itch’ – he scratched it out in three - sport.
Whether it’s the barroom ballad of ‘Stay Away From Lonely Places’ or the beautiful waltz of ‘Immigrant’s Eyes’ with its warning not “to take it for granted” - as powerful an indictment of current U.S. policy as you’re going to hear – not a foot is put wrong. As well as the strong originals, there’s the usual choice covers too: a laugh-out-loud ‘It’s Hard To Be Humble’, a run at ‘My Favourite Picture Of You’ which is even more heartbreaking than Guy Clark’s original, and Billy Joel’s hoary auld ‘Just The Way You Are’ is Willified with effortless ease. The man could sing you a death threat from Al Qaeda and you’d still happily sway along.
There must be something in that lethal weed that keeps this hero - and he really is one the great heroes - truckin’ along because here is yet another marvellous record to add to the fair pile that Nelson has already given us. I look forward to the next one.