Mortality haunts nearly every corner of God’s Problem Child—due out the day before his birthday—especially on the first single “Old Timer,” an inspired ballad co-written by Nelson’s long-time friend Donnie Fritts.
“You’ve been down every highway / Burned your share of bridges / You found forgiveness / You think that you’re still a young bull rider / Till you look in the mirror and see an old timer,” the reedy-voiced legend croons.
That mournful but humorous look at advanced age pervades Problem Child, and is visualized in a brand-new music video for “Old Timer,” filmed at Nelson’s Pedernales studio and at his famed Luck Texas Ranch.
Between shots of him performing the track in his studio (during the album’s sessions), viewers see sepia-toned footage of Nelson wistfully ruminating upon his own personal artifacts lining the walls of his custom saloon—his many album covers, portraits, and photographs with friends long past gone (likely including Leon Russell, who makes one of his final vocal appearances on the title track).
Aside from the defiant “Still Not Dead” and “He Won’t Ever Be Gone”—a tribute to the late Merle Haggard—its perhaps “Old Timer” that most concisely encapsulates the album’s theme. “You had your run and it’s been a good one / Seems like the world is passing you by / Old father time, he just keeps on tickin’ / You’ve still got a lot of life and a song to sing.”
Willie Nelson may be getting old, and his friends may be dying one by one, but goddamnit he’s gonna find the beauty and humor in it all.