Who doesn't love and respect Willie Nelson? Willie, even at age 90, could sing the phone book – perhaps he has – and it would be worth hearing.
Willie's latest is a tribute to the songwriting of Harlan Howard, the dean of country music songwriters, who passed away in 2002. Howard once described country music as "three chords and the truth." Howard wrote hundreds of country hits during his career. Nelson and producer Buddy Cannon picked 10 to showcase here, including the title track, 'Busted,' 'Streets of Baltimore, "Life Turned Her That Way" and ''Tiger By The Tail," which became synonymous with Buck Owens.
Nelson's tribute is a true country album, complete with steel guitar and the signature sounds of so many of Nelson's recordings - the unmistakable harmonica of Mickey Raphael and Willie's own guitar, Trigger.
Nelson is in fine voice here, especially on cuts like the title track, "Tiger By The Tail" and on "Excuse Me (I Think I've Got A Heartache)." This is a happy surprise given his age. The songs are straightforward in their delivery, and the arrangements sound similar to the hit versions cut by other country singers over the years.
The downside is that it's too short. Only 10 songs. Indeed, there are so many more of Howard's classic songs to choose from, so three or four more would've been appreciated.
Still, this is a fine tribute to an old friend, a good primer on the songs of Harlan Howard and best of all, a really enjoyable listen.