'First Rose of Spring' Review: Willie Nelson's new album is sweet, relaxing and perfect to escape the lockdown
The new album by country outlaw legend Willie Nelson is just around the corner. Aptly named 'First Rose of Spring', Nelson's 70th studio album is releasing on July 3 on Legacy Recordings and is just what 2020 needs.
Out of its 11 total songs, Nelson recorded two freshly minted songs he co-wrote with country music producer Buddy Cannon called 'Blue Star' and 'Love Just Laughed'. The new record also sees Nelson interpreting songs by the likes of Toby Keith ('Don't Let the Old Man In'), Chris Stapleton ('Our Song') and Billy Joe Shaver, whom he previously collaborated with on 2014's 'Hard To Be An Outlaw', alongside the series of co-written originals.
From the moment you hit play on the LP's self-titled opener, an air of tenderness comes to the fore to reveal the iconic artist's creative intent. Similarly, the genius of Nelson's softer songs found in previous albums is evident, but the new album feels remarkable settled. Nelson has accumulated his massively successful years of experience, lyrically summed them up, and just enjoys the absorption in his music-making. The result is an LP that is sweet, relaxing, and sends you floating within the peace of escapism.
The romantic titular 'First Rose of Spring' track was released in February and reflects on the vow "until death do us part" between a husband and wife. Nelson's vocals intertwine both a talking and singing style over sustained harmonica, gentle piano slides across the keys, subtle layers of guitars and minimalist drumming. In the closing refrain, Nelson sings, "The last time he saw her. He knew everything had changed. He said goodbye and let the tears fall like rain. On the first rose of spring."
'Blue Star' is also intimately gentle but gets a steady pace as Nelson declares his romantic commitment with, "You Know I'll follow you to the end. Whenever that is, we both will know. I will follow you again. Anywhere that love can go."
In 'I'll Break Out Again Tonight', Nelson comes out unhinged and unrelenting with lyrics such as "Slowly the long day turns to night. And soon they'll switch off the prison lights. But in myself I'm making plans. To be at home with you again" and "They can chain my body, but not my mind." Over the song's swayed country rhythm, Nelson replaces the mental incarceration of being broken or damaged with a sense of dignity and self-respecting awareness in the lyrics, "The warden thinks I'm in for life. All he's ever seen me wear are stripes. He don't know about my blue suit and my tie. That I wear when I am with you each night."
'Our Song' sees the singer looking back at his past to reflect on his life's choices. Nelson sings, "In this time that I've been given. To fill my life with livin'. I hope I have done the best that I can do. Yes, regrets, I've got a few. But, honey, none of them is you. And I need you like a singer needs a song" in the first verse over a traipsing rhythmic style.
In 'Love Just Laughed', we are treated to an epic mix of the famous "outlaw" tone from this country outlaw. The track gets slick harmonica layers from longtime band member Mickey Raphael, as well as the buttery steel guitar played by Mike Johnson with a smooth solo towards the end.
For Willie Nelson fans, the singer's personal reflection and introspective look at his life, the calming breeze of relaxing satisfaction found in his music, and a comfortably settled and secure Nelson are just a few of the many reasons why we recommend 'First Rose of Spring'.