Willie Nelson at the peak of his powers, Bloc Party attempt a comeback – the week’s best albums

Willie Nelson, A Beautiful Time ★★★★☆

“There’s something to be said for gettin’ older,” a creaky voice croons with languid authority over a mattress of sighing guitars. “Dusty bottles pour a finer glass of wine / An old beat-up guitar just sounds better / And wisdom only comes with time.”

Well, if anybody ought to know, it’s Willie Nelson. Beautiful Time is the nation maestro’s 97th studio album, launched on his 89th birthday. Take a second to ponder that lifetime in music. Nelson has been on the highway since 1956, so long as any residing and nonetheless working musician. During 5 many years of stardom, he has been knocking out albums at a price of just about two a 12 months, but there’s nothing hackneyed about his artwork. Beautiful Time is a tenderly elegiac and sweetly uplifting assortment each bit as sensible, humorous and shifting as something the nice man has ever launched, showcasing an artist on the peak of his powers, with issues he nonetheless desires to say. 

“Live every day like it was your last one,” Nelson advocates on the jaunty Live Every Day, including the winking proviso: “And one day you’re gonna be right.” It is one in all six new Nelson originals, each one replete with quotable strains, delivered together with his unfastened sense of timing in a voice that has acquired extra apparently gnarly with out shedding its innate melodiousness.

At his age, every part Nelson touches is inevitably shaded with mortality, and Nelson leans into it, imparting pearls of knowledge with the quiet authority of somebody not all in favour of losing his breath on trivia. Energy Follows Thought proceeds at a stately tempo, with Nelson articulating a private philosophy extra New Age hippy than nation conservative: “Imagine what you want and get out of the way / Remember energy follows thought, so be careful what you say.” The floor ripples with spectral guitar strains, a reminder that Nelson can be one of the distinctive guitarists nation has ever produced, with a gypsy jazz contact drawing on his hero, Django Reinhardt.

The provocatively titled I Don’t Go to Funerals has a basic Nelson pay-off: “And I won’t be at mine.” It’s a cheeky romp that appears ahead optimistically to a rustic paradise the place Nelson conjures “a big old picking party” with “me and Waylon, John and Kris and our sweetheart Patsy Cline”. Since his outlaw compatriots Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash have shuffled off this mortal coil – though Kris Kristofferson, fellow namechecked member of the supergroup The Highwaymen, continues to be with us at 85 – Nelson (together with Dolly Parton) has successfully assumed the standing of residing repository of outdated nation values. There is a clutch of wonderful songs right here written for Nelson by a few of Nashville’s main up to date tunesmiths, together with the title observe (a celebration of life on the highway) and elegiac ballad Dusty Bottles which are certainly destined for traditional standing.

Nelson additionally gives extremely private readings of The Beatles’ With a Little Help From My Friends and Leonard Cohen’s masterful Tower of Song. Like Cohen, Nelson grapples with outdated age fearlessly, providing himself as an inspirational information to the dimming of the sunshine. “My life has been a wonder and I found my place in time,” he asserts on I Don’t Go to Funerals. Amen to that. Neil McCormick

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