Country Review: Willie Nelson-Ride Me Back Home

Release Date:  June 21, 2019
Label:  Legacy Recordings
When Willie Nelson sings, people listen. Throughout his storied 60-year career, The Redheaded Stranger has become a genre unto himself. His mastery lies in the poetic, heartfelt expressions of romance, loneliness, and the exploits of an outlaw’s life on the road.

Willie’s 69th studio album Ride Me Back Home thematically does not wander far from home. Yet there are echoes of melancholy, remorse, and gravity, which force the listener to sit up and take notice. In late-stage releases from Bob Dylan (Tempest), Johnny Cash (American series), and Leonard Cohen (You Want It Darker), one hears underlying themes of the wrath of time, the futility of existence and death. These undercurrents serve as haunting reminders of what is to come and serve a warning for all to live every moment as if it were your last. In Willie Nelson’s inimitable style, Ride Me Back Home follows suit.

The title track is classic country fare serving a double-metaphor signifying a returning to his roots and a longing for a time when the world was a bigger place. “Come on Time” follows by pleading with the powers that be to give him more, and an acceptance that in the battle of Willie vs. Time, Time will ultimately prevail.

Willie’s cover of Guy Clark’s “My Favorite Picture of You” is a standout track. Heartbreaking lyrics layered on soft and subtle country chords is Willie at his finest. Reminiscent of his 1998 masterpiece, Teatro, the spacing between the lyrics and notes in this song is used to dramatic effect, proving what is left out can be as important as what is put in. “Just a moment in time that you can’t have back. You never left, but your bags were packed.”

Willie’s commonsensical wit is at the forefront of the upbeat “Seven Year Itch,” and “Hard to be Humble” while “Nobody’s Listening” and “Maybe I Should Have Been Listening” ride a rueful tone of sadness and remorse.

The sole misfire on the album is “Just the Way You Are,” a compulsory cover of the Billy Joel classic. The iconic Hammond organ sounds of the original do not port well to Willie’s country guitar jangling. When Willie sings, “I said I love you.” I couldn’t help envision him shouting this to his wife because she couldn’t hear him the first time. 

In Ride Me Back Home, Willie Nelson packages a set of covers, retreads, and new material co-written with Buddy Cannon to form a dark, yet delightful whole. As the last part of a trilogy beginning with 2017’s God’s Problem Child and 2018’s Last Man Standing, Ride Me Back Home is ironic as well. After being on the road so long, it is hard to imagine Willie ever turning back.

Key Tracks Include: “Ride Me Back Home”, “My Favorite Picture of You”, “Seven Year Itch”, “Nobody’s Listening”

Tom Endyke-MuzikMan.net Staff
October 9, 2019

Reviews Provided By:

01. Ride Me Back Home
02. Come on Time
03. My Favorite Picture of You
04. Seven Year Itch
05. Immigrant Eyes
06. Stay Away from Lonely Places
07. Just the Way You Are
08. One More Song to Write
09. Nobody’s Listening
10. It’s Hard to Be Humble


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