Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Album Review: Willie Nelson - I Don't Know A Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard

Willie Nelson
I Don't Know A Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard
**** out of *****

The seventy third (!) solo album from the American country legend Willie Nelson is I Don't Know A Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard. This focus on Howard's songs is apt as Howard gave Nelson his first job as a songwriter for the publishing company Pamper Music.

The rich sounding record was produced by Nelson's longtime partner Buddy Cannon and the backing band consists of Wyatt Beard – background vocals, Melonie Cannon – background vocals, Jim "Moose" Brown – piano, synthesizer, B-3 organ, Wurlitzer, Mike Johnson – steel guitar, James Mitchell – electric guitar, Larry Paxton – bass, tic tac bass, Mickey Raphael – harmonica, Bobby Terry – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, Lonnie Wilson – drums. Nelson's voice is more restrained, but still in amazing fashion for a 90 year old habitual smoker of multiple substances. 

Also of note is Nelson's guitar playing as many songs on the album, including the weepy ballad "The Chokin' Kind" and "Beautiful Annabel Lee", deploy some excellent, jazz like solos from Nelson's unmistakable sounding acoustic guitar, Trigger.  

Paxton's bass and Wilson's drums push along both "Excuse Me (I've Think I've Got A Heartache)" and "She Called Me Baby" with energy, making the exit before the tears flow directly into the beer, while the piano, straight ahead strums, and Raphael's evocative harmonica colors the sad "Life Turned Her That Way". These old tunes and even older singer come alive with emotion throughout the album, traits country artists 70 years younger than Nelson would kill for. 

The title tune is a beautiful mix of musical styles as Americana, waltzes around with flamenco flair and lyrical beauty. Less successful is the opening "Tiger By The Tail" which finds Nelson's voice being flanked by background vocals and overshadowed, sounding odd, but the rest of the album finds the braided one in fine form, especially on the stout "Streets of Baltimore" and sorrowful "Too Many Rivers". All the players come together beautifully, ending the album on a highpoint with their down and out take, with deep bluesy influences running throughout the classic "Busted".    

Just over a half hour of timeless country tunes, played with supreme confidence and relaxed professionalism, Willie Nelson's late career top notch output continues with his tribute album to an old colleague and friend, I Don't Know A Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard
Support the legendary artist, buy the album, peep some video below:

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