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CD: Willie Nelson – Ride Me Back Home | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Willie Nelson – Ride Me Back Home

CD: Willie Nelson – Ride Me Back Home

Empathic third album in a late-career trilogy from the outlaw country icon

Horse sense: Willie Nelson

Willie’s new album opens with the singer calling out to all the tired old horses saved from the knackers and put out to pasture. It’s not just something he does in song, but in life. It’s co-written with Sonny Throckmorton, an old mucker of the Zen cowboy who lives next to Nelson’s Luck studio in Texas – and next door, too, to the stud of 60 or so retired horses saved by Nelson from the slaughterhouse and given a retirement home on his ranch. It’s hard not to love a man for that kind of act of kindness to the world’s beasts of burden, and the song’s a good-un, too, sweet, tender, and direct.

It sets the tone for the rest of a warm and hugely enjoyable album, proceeding through songs at a nice easy shuffle rather than a clip, the focus being on the acoustic, and with tempos taken at a relaxed pace, rarely pulling on the reigns. There are three new Willie songs co-written with his regular pardner in tunes and production, Buddy Cannon – they’ve made 13 albums in the past ten years, and Ride Me Back Home is the conclusion of an album trilogy about age and mortality, comprising 2017’s God’s Problem Child and 2018’s Last Man Standing.

Highlights include two fine Guy Clark covers – the incomparable "My Favourite Picture of You" and "Immigrant Eyes", an apposite tribute to Clark’s immigrant grandfather, and America’s history of welcoming the "tired, the hungry, the scared … bound by the dream that they shared". Against the background of Trump’s presidency, it packs a powerful emotional and political punch, without stepping once out of its personal and human centre.

It’s followed by a very welcome deep cut from Nelson’s back catalogue, "Stay Away from Lonely Places", a fantastic song from 1972’s The Words Don’t Fit the Picture, one of his last Nashville albums, and out of print for a long, long time. A cover of Billy Joel’s "Just the Way You Are" may be cheese to some, but Nelson brings out the basic human warmth of the lyric, and the musicians keep it corralled and intimate.

Nelson’s had a fine run of late-period albums, and with Buddy Cannon, has written more new songs in the past decade than he had in many years. While they not be a match for his classics, they’re damned good, and deeply satisfying, played loose but held tight. Ride Me Back Home joins them as another fine step on the zen highway way from a peerless artist and icon we’re going to miss like hell when he’s gone. And so will those lucky, grazing horses. The world salutes you, Willie.

Nelson’s had a fine run of late-period albums, and has written more new songs in the past decade than he had in years

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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