Published Jun 20, 2019Who says growing old can't be fun? Willie Nelson makes it sound like a gas on Ride Me Back Home, his latest LP and one of the best in the living legend's long and storied catalogue.
A prime example of Nelson's laudably upbeat attitude on this deftly dynamic record is "Come On Time." Its shuffling rhythm and zippy harmonica complement the outlaw country icon's jaunty delivery, as he sings about the passing years being an old rival, and perhaps even a true friend who has left "lines on my face… you're winning the race." Another key track is "One More Song to Write." It finds Nelson singing about penning a final tune over a Latin-flavoured guitar solo dripping in whimsy, as drums gallop surely likely the horse that the country vet is petting on the album's cover art.
Aside from those cuts that directly deal with ageing gracefully, a number of others show Nelson's spryness in terms of form. "Seven Year Itch," for instance, strays from country well into blues with its downcast rhythm and fluttering harmonica, not to mention its quick guitar licks and sassy delivery from Nelson. "Immigrant Eyes," meanwhile, finds old Willie delving into righteous and empathetic gospel lyrics about the troubled newcomers on America's doorstep. And then there's "Stay Away From Lonely Places" which features jazzy piano and whisper-soft percussion that will make you want to waltz. It'd jazzy enough to make Willie's old buddy (and "Seven Spanish Angels" collaborator, not to mention jazz legend) Ray Charles grin with glee.
Another creative cut: "Just the Way You Are" a 40-year-old Billy Joel hit stripped of its synths for which Nelson and company offer up heartfelt singing, along with a swaying harmonica riff. It's a sentimental love song that Nelson delivers tenderly enough to leave you misty-eyed.
These tracks and more prove the octogenarian has as much grit and vigour as country stars a fraction of his age. Indeed, Nelson performs so deftly on Ride Me Back Home that you'll feel the urge to ask this aged outlaw to hop back in the saddle for yet another spryly exciting ride. (Legacy)