Willie Nelson Has Aged Like Wine and His New Album ‘A Beautiful Time’ Is Proof

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo credit: SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images)

Today, Willie Nelson celebrated his 89th birthday by giving us the gift of a new album.

It’s interesting that the country icon chose to drop A Beautiful Time today. After a certain age, birthdays become days to reflect on times past as well as to ruminate on what’s to come. In this album, Willie Nelson does just that. Throughout the record, we see Willie discussing his inevitable end while counting his blessings. However, this isn’t an album from a man who is ready to hang up his spurs.

In the album’s title track, Willie Nelson sings. “If I ever get old / I’ll still love the road / I’ll still love the way that it winds. / When the last song’s been played / I’ll look back and say / I sure had a beautiful time.” To me, that chorus embodies the running theme in not only the song but also the record. More than that, “If I ever get old” is an incredibly telling line. Willie might have settled down a little in his later years, but he’s still out there doing it. From touring and hosting festivals to painting Music City red with Kacey Musgraves, Willie’s still got it.

Stylistically Speaking…

A Beautiful Time gives you exactly what you would expect from a Willie Nelson album. Willie’s voice and legendary guitar, Trigger, take center stage. Behind them is a backdrop made up of traditional country instruments – guitars, pedal steel, harmonicas, and the like. At this point, it seems that Willie is set in his ways and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. While the production keeps things fresh, A Beautiful Time sounds like a blast from the past, for the most part.

Willie Nelson Shows His Age on this Album

Willie Nelson packed this album with songs about aging, mortality, and looking back on a life well-lived. At the same time, you can hear Nelson’s age in his voice. Don’t get me wrong he still sounds great. In fact, the timeworn rasp in his voice lends more weight to even the heaviest moments of A Beautiful Time.

However, Willie Nelson isn’t just showing his age in this album. He’s also showing that, after more than six decades in the business, he is an undisputed master of his craft. Nelson co-penned five of the fourteen tracks on this album with longtime collaborator Buddy Cannon. The rest, though, fit the theme of the album –and Willie – so well that they feel like he could have written them.

Standout Tracks A Beautiful Time

With this album, Willie Nelson proved that he’s still at the top of his game. The songs he picked are damn near as good as the ones he wrote and they all fit together like a beautiful musical puzzle. Maybe the most surprising track on the album is the Beatles hit “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Willie showcases the talent that made Stardust a success by reinterpreting this pop-rock classic and creating a straightforward country song.

However, that’s far from the best cut on this record, in my opinion. These are my picks.

“Energy Follows Thought” (Willie Nelson, Buddy Cannon)

Like most of Willie Nelson’s catalog, there are no skips on this album. However, there are a couple of songs that I had to restart after hearing them for the first time. This is one of them. This is also one of those songs where the age in Willie’s voice makes the lyrics carry more weight. “Energy Follows Thought” is one of two songs on the record that feature Nelson sharing advice. “Live Every Day” is the other and it came close to making this list.

In this song, he’s talking about the importance of not just positive thinking but intentional thinking. The opening lines, “Imagine what you want / And get out of the way. / Remember, energy follows thought / So be careful what you say,” set the tone. Like much of this album, this track is heavy and will really make you think if you let it.

“Dusty Bottles” (Jim “Moose” Brown, Scotty Emerick, Don Sampson)

There’s something to be said for getting older. / Dusty bottles pour a finer glass of wine. / An old beat-up guitar just sounds better. / And wisdom only comes with time,” Willie sings in the opening lines of this song. This ode to aging is one of the songs that Willie Nelson didn’t write but it fits him and this album like a glove.

I just hope I can have this kind of outlook at 89.

 “I Don’t Go to Funerals” (Nelson, Cannon)

This is one of the most upbeat songs on the record and it sees Willie Nelson pondering his own funeral. However, this isn’t so much about death as it is the afterlife. In this song, Willie is looking past this life and into the next one. The lines “There’ll be a big ol’ pickin’ party / when it comes my time. / Me and Waylon, John, and Kris / And our sweetheart Patsy Cline. / Merle and Grady and Freddy Powers and all those pals of mine. / But, I don’t go to funerals and I won’t be at mine,” paint a wonderful picture of what Willie will be doing while everyone stands around a church and mourns him.

Final Verdict on the New Willie Nelson Album

If you’ve ever wondered why Willie Nelson is still so popular after all these years, just put on this album and you’ll get it. This isn’t just an aging country star cutting an album. It’s a master of the craft showing that he’s still able to do the thing that he loves most. If you don’t listen to this record at least once, you’re missing out.