Fresh off the back of his 2018 Grammy Award-winning Frank Sinatra tribute album My Way, the prolific Country music legend Willie Nelson is back with a new album, his sixty ninth, titled Ride Me Back Home. Collaborating once again with long-time friend Buddy Cannon, who has produced 13 albums for Nelson in just over a decade, Nelson delivers a mixture of covers and original songs on Ride Me Back Home.
The album opens with the title track, which Nelson co-wrote with Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Sonny Throckmorton. Ride Me Back Home pays homage to Nelson’s love for horses and their spirituality. The gently lilting track is driven by piano as Nelson’s voice croons over the melody. It’s a sedate start to the record but it’s a reminder that there really is no one else like Nelson in the Country genre these days.
Of the original songs Come On Time is the standout, and one of the record’s few uptempo moments. It has a traditional Country groove and it’s nice to hear Nelson give a vocal with a little more grit and bite. The stompy, Southern-inspired Seven Year Itch is another highlight, which adds a swampy blues sound to Nelson’s distinctive husky voice.
Covers on the record include a stirring version of Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are and a family moment on a version of Mac Davis’ It’s Hard to Be Humble featuring Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah. Nelson pays homage to the late Guy Clark by covering two of his songs – Immigrant Eyes and My Favorite Picture of You. Both are given stripped-back piano-led makeovers, with Nelson’s voice stealing the spotlight.
The record comes to a close with a cover of Buzz Rabin’s Country classic Maybe I Should’ve Been Listening. It’s the perfect close to a record that’s laidback, heartfelt and quietly relaxing.
There’s no doubt that Willie Nelson is a legend and his die-hard fans will find plenty to enjoy on Ride Me Back Home. For me, it lacks the punch that some of Nelson’s best work has but there’s enough here to keep you listening. I feel his original compositions are stronger and honestly I would have liked to hear more of them. At this point in Nelson’s career though, we should likely be glad that he’s still as prolific as he is and releasing quality music.
Track list: 1. Ride Me Back Home 2. Come On Time 3. My Favorite Picture of You 4. Seven Year Itch 5. Immigrant Eyes 6. Stay Away From Lonely Places 7. Just the Way You Are 8. One More Song to Write 9. Nobody’s Listening 10. It’s Hard to Be Humble (featuring Lukas and Micah Nelson) 11. Maybe I Should’ve Been Listening Record label: Legacy Recordings Release date: 21st June 2019 Buy Ride Me Back Home