First Rose Of Spring
Willie Nelson just keeps on keeping on, churning out albums more regularly than artists a quarter of his age. Invariably they all hit the mark too, based on song selection, the worldly and weary tone of Nelson’s voice and his trusty six-string sidekick Trigger. First Rose of Spring, his 70th album, is another quality release but this time it shifts attention away from the passing of time and mortality and remembers and celebrates friends and family – past and present.
Chris Stapleton and Toby Keith contribute songs and Nelson covers Billy Joe Shaver’s ‘We Are The Cowboys’ but he also throws in some new originals such as the slow waltz of ‘Blue Star’, that recalls his Stardust album cover with its interstellar theme. The playing across the album is perfect in tone and temperament. It’s essentially an easy listening country album that draws on light honk-tonk and on a song such as ‘Just Bummin’ Around’ you can hear Nelson’s beloved jazz influences seeping through the country cracks. The most upbeat things get is with the brilliantly titled ‘I’m The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised’, made famous by Johnny Paycheck in 1977.
The emotion and weight isn’t as heavy as his other recent albums but he’s corralled a wonderful set of songs and put the Willie stamp on them with that voice and sense of musical timing that show no signs of waning.