Willie Nelson: Ride Me Back Home (Legacy) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020  

Willie Nelson

Ride Me Back Home

Legacy

Jun 24, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Legend gets bandied about too easily these days but Willie Nelson, now 86, well deserves the title. With more than six decades in the business: from Music Row songwriter behind Patsy Cline's "Crazy," to memorable covers "Georgia On My Mind" and "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," to his own chart toppers "On the Road Again" and "Always On My Mind"the man is unstoppable. Nelson established himself in Austin from Nashville, in the early '70s, paralleled his quitting of hard drinking for pot smoking, and changed sensibilities from hired hand focused on hits, to embracing a more hippie aesthetic and progressive worldview.

Later years Nelson shows no signs of slowing down, still touring and prolific with new album releases. Ride Me Back Home is the last in Nelson's recent trilogy on mortality that began with God's Problem Child (2017)where he poked fun at the internet proclaiming his death, not once but twice on the hilarious "Still Not Done"followed by Last Man Standing (2018) its musings on it "getting hard to watch all his old pals check out." 

Here, title track "Ride Me Back Home" is a tender ode to faithful horses. A love that has seen him save more than 60 horsesfrom slaughterhousesthat now roam on his "Luck" ranch. Pull the lens out and it's also about sustainability and environmental protections. The whole album encompasses issues dear to his heart: "Immigrant Eyes" reminds us again how this country became great. "Nobody's Listening" illustrates our need for empathy through the sobering tales of ordinary folks fallen on hard timesa man choking back the tears telling his wife he has "to sell the house that his daddy built" and those besieged by Hurricane Katrina.

But his humor is also in evidence. On "Come On Time"a tune he wrote with long-time songwriting partner, Buddy Cannonhe goads time "Come on time/I've beat you before." On the playful "Seven Year Itch" the Blues Brothers harmonica and guitar solos punctuate sentiments like "I had a seven year itch/Scratched it out in three...Getting nowhere close/And that's okay." He also covers Mac Davis' "It's Hard to Be Humble" with doting sons Micah and Lukas Nelson. And Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are""I don't want clever conversations/I never want to work that hard"that second line leaps out the way it never has in the original. 

"One More Song to Write," a moving ballad where his mortality truly comes to bear is this album's opus. In his unmistakable warm tremor and gentle twang, he sings: "I've got one more song to write/One more bridge to burn...One more hill to climb/And it's somewhere in my mind"our favorite country outlaw shows us not only how to grow old gracefully but live it to the fullest. (www.willienelson.com)   

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10



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