For his new album I Don't Know A Thing About Love, Willie Nelson and band recorded fresh interpretations of 10 classic compositions penned by the legendary American songwriter Harlan Howard, an early musical contemporary of Willie’s who famously defined a great country song as “three chords and the truth.”
Amongst the nearly 150 albums that Willie Nelson has released, he has several amazing full-album tributes to songwriters from Kris Kristofferson and George Gershwin to Ray Price and Cindy Walker. Adding to that list is a new studio album dedicated to songwriting legend Harlen Howard who has scores of country hits including a number that crossed over to pop and even R&B charts.
With the release of I Don’t Know A Thing About Love, Willie Nelson brings his own perspective to the abiding musical legacy of Harlan Howard with sublime studio performances of 10 Howard compositions including the album’s first single, “Busted.” Written in 1962, “Busted” is the saga of a dirt-poor farmer bemoaning his overdue bills, crop failures, and other financial woes while maintaining a sense of hope for the future. The up-beat and catchy melody of “Busted” ironically underscored some potentially bleak content making the song a hit in 1963, first for Johnny Cash with the Carter Family and then a Top 10 smash for Ray Charles, who also recorded a live version with Willie for Ray’s 2005 duets album, Genius & Friends. John Conlee also hit #6 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart with his cover of “Busted” in 1982.
Featuring cover art by Willie’s son Micah Nelson, I Don’t Know A Thing About Love was produced by longtime musical collaborator Buddy Cannon. Willie’s band on the album is a murderers’ row of crack Nashville musicians including Larry Paxton (bass, tic tac bass), Lonnie Wilson (drums), Bobby Terry (acoustic guitar, electric guitar), James Mitchell (electric guitar), Mike Johnson (steel guitar), Mickey Raphael (harmonica), Jim “Moose” Brown (piano, synthesizer, B3 organ, Wurlitzer), Wyatt Beard (background vocals), and Melonie Cannon (background vocals).
2023 promises to be a banner year for Willie Nelson, who turns 90 years old on April 29. Wille Nelson & Family, a new five-part film documentary series directed by Thom Zimny and Oren Moverman recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and in addition, he’s nominated for four Grammy Awards from three separate projects: Best Country Solo Performance (“Live Forever”) (from Live Forever: A Tribute To Billy Joe Shaver); Best Country Song and Best Country Album (A Beautiful Time), and Best Roots Gospel Album (The Willie Nelson Family).
In a career spanning six decades, Harlen Howard wrote many popular songs and enduring standards for a variety of artists. In 1961 alone he had 15 compositions on the country charts, which earned him ten BMI awards. A member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall Of Fame, Howard wrote hits for Ray Charles, Buck Owens, Conway Twitty, Bobby Bare, and many more. Harlan Howard passed away in Nashville in 2002 at age 74.