Time may be an enemy to most, but Willie Nelson seems a bit impervious to its ravages - a fact made evident on "Ride Me Back Home," a relaxed affair that showcases Nelson's still-strong voice and his sharp-as-ever songwriting and interpreting abilities.
"Ride Me Back Home" is his 13th album for Legacy Recordings since joining the label in 2012 and coincidentally, it is also the 13th collaboration between Nelson and noted producer Buddy Cannon. This partnership, which includes shared writing contributions, is responsible for some outstanding releases for over a decade now, including this 11-track set.
Although Nelson is keeping time at bay, songs on this set suggest that the topic is never far from his mind. On "Come On Time," one of three brand-new Nelson/Cannon songs, Nelson calls time his friend but acknowledges that it is ultimately a losing battle when he sings, "Time, you're not fooling me/You're something I can't kill/You're flying like a mighty wind/You're never standing still."
Two of the more notable tunes are covers of songs by the late great songwriting legend Guy Clark, and both songs carry forth the time theme. On "Immigrant Eyes," the narrator looks back through time to his grandfather's struggles as an immigrant in America and how that Ellis Island experience shaped his life.
The other Clark composition, "My Favorite Picture Of You," with its lovely acoustic arrangement slightly reminiscent of Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou," is an evocative meditation in which the narrator uses favorite old Polaroids to recall a past love.
The passage of time is the focus of another Nelson/Cannon original, "One More Song To Write." The arrangement, including long-time collaborator Mickey Raphael's distinctive harmonica accents and Nelson's own acoustic guitar flourishes from his trusted Trigger, lays a nice and simple foundation for Nelson to belt out his introspective late-age mission statement, "I've got one more song to write/I've got one more bridge to burn/I've got one more endless night/One more lesson to be learned/One more hill to climb/And it's somewhere in my mind/I'll know it when it's right/I've got one more song to write."
While the delivery is earnest and heartfelt, and the lyrics are not meant to be taken literally, the listener still can't help but question the song's main point. While Nelson clearly understands that time ultimately isn't on his side, the quality of this recording, the strength of his voice and the poignant songwriting showcased suggest that there are still many more songs left to write.