In country honky-tonk opener Last Man Standing, Nelson’s signature descending end-line vocals are comfortably and reassuringly familiar, ruminating as he is on being potentially the last survivor of the outlaws: well, if he is, he is still rockin’ it with class. Second Don’t Tell Noah continues the upbeat country stomp, harmonica again in bright musical scene-setting. These two tracks alone assert Nelson’s continuance, despite those ruminations.
Third Bad Breath is another one of his classic self-deprecating narratives with halitosis is a word I never could spell and then the getting-older man’s punchline bad breath is better than no breath at all. Next Me and You is more in the tender vein with its storytelling, though musically still uptempo.
It’s not until the fifth we get our first ballad, Something You Get Through, this a beautiful if plaintive look at loss, the positive thought in the end is not the end at all with a further pretty, cushioning melodic line in it’s not something you get over but something you get through, the pedal steel as the obvious extra layer of instrumental lament.
With co-writer Buddy Cannon, Nelson continues throughout the other tracks to refer to others’ passing and deciding when he might go – or not – and other life-lived thoughts with whimsical wraparounds of this. Just a title captures the wry summation of those 85 years: I’ll Try To Do Better Next Time. You could see the closing song as an even more candid metaphor for this thinking, Very Far to Crawl, but here Nelson reflects on being rejected in love, and in the urge to crawl back and regain that love there is perhaps the survival instinct we really want to hear - the moody harmonica, organ and guitar exemplifying Nelson in gutsy musical fettle.