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Thread: Merle Ronald Haggard

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Default Merle Ronald Haggard

    Merle Haggard: SLE

    “I was born the running kind/With leaving always on my mind / Home was never home to me at anytime . . . There just had to be an exit/For the running kind / Within me there's a prison/Surrounding me alone/As real as any dungeon with its walls of stone / I know running's not the answer / Yeah, but running's been my nature/And a part of me/That keeps me moving on . . .”

    - Robert Christgau:

    Merle Haggard and the Strangers: A Working Man Can't Get Nowhere Today [Capitol, 1977]
    The album opens with the title song, about a Good Redneck, a class-conscious guy who pays his child support and wonders skeptically why he doesn't get ahead. It closes with "I'm a White Boy," about a Bad Redneck, a race-conscious guy who's too proud for welfare but would settle for a rich woman and/or an easy job. These are powerful pieces whether you like them or not, rendered with passionate sympathy and a touch of distance--his strongest in years. The "filler" includes covers from old standbys Williams and Wills and new favorites Delmore and Wells and an envoi to Lefty Frizzell as well as a gospel song and a running song and a sentimental standard that works (for once). Not a bad cut, and Capitol assembled it from the vaults after Haggard bolted for MCA. Why then did Hag himself put out such crap for three years? A-

    Merle Haggard and the Strangers: Songs I'll Always Sing [Capitol, 1977]
    God damn it--I could put together four discs of Hag that would never go below A minus, but Capitol hasn't offered me the job, so this two-disc mishmash will have to do. Dreck among the gems (Haggard has small knack for heart songs), muddled chronologically and thematically (a real waste with an artist so prolific and varied), and the fifth album to include a live version of "Okie From Muskogee." But at least it offers all four of his great outside-the-law songs, one per side. And it's budget-priced. A-

    If I Could Only Fly [Epitaph, 2000]
    For decades aesthetes have crowed about the hard-traveling Haggard's all-American musicality without mentioning that he's a cranky bastard who never decides till the moment at hand whether this gig or session is worthy of his high standards. After a long, dispiriting string of releases that gradually devolved from hit-or-miss to cynical, he comes out of nowhere on a punk label to cut one of the very best albums of his very uneven recording career. Although I doubt there's a "Mama Tried" or "Today I Started Loving You Again" here, I'm positive there's no "Valentine" or "Kids Get Lonesome Too," both of which turned my stomach at a 1996 show, and I like or love most of the new songs-including the metanostalgic "Wishing All These Old Things Were New," the Western swing condom commercial "Bareback," and several about how much he loves his fifth wife. Plus sui generis singing that pauses for consecutive Bing Crosby and Johnny Cash tributes, and the sense of time that permeates his equally sui generis Bakersfield swing. What is his deepest belief? That time is to be savored, not possessed. A-

    Working in Tennessee [Vanguard, 2011]
    Now 74 and short half a lung, he's not making the best music of his life, just the best albums. The playing keeps getting savvier, he hasn't lost as much voice as God intended, his homegrown anarchism is feistier than ever, and with help from his fifth wife he's still writing keepers. Not even the anti-Nashville "Too Much Boogie Woogie" feels like filler. Try a title track that crests with "Well the water came in, the water went out/Saw the Hall of Fame floatin' about," or the equally insouciant "Laugh It Off," or the love songs for seniors "Down on the Houseboat" (they've got money) and "Under the Bridge" (they don't), or a "What I Hate" where he blames the resurgent Civil War on the Rebels. Or if all that sounds too darn modern, start with the three oldies: "Cocaine Blues" on his lonesome, "Jackson" with his fifth wife, and "Working Man Blues" with Shotgun Willie and his own 17-year-old son. Man's learned how to live, and he has no intention of stopping. A-

    Presents His 30th Album [Capitol, 1974]
    The man has been making them for less than a decade, and thirty is too damn many. But this is clearly where Haggard wants to show off his range, and the display, featuring more original songs than he's put in one place for a long time, is pretty impressive. There's a rip-roaring infidelity lyric that's definitely one of his genius pieces--"Old Man From the Mountain," it's called, complete with bluegrass shading. And though after that only "Honky Tonk Nighttime Man" and the Bob Wills/Lefty Frizzell cover are liable to be remembered, just about everything else is liable to be enjoyed. B+

    July 2nd, 2012

    ‘Country star Merle Haggard isn’t optimistic about the upcoming presidential election, he recently told the Dallas Observer:

    "I've got to be honest," he says. "I met President Obama and he was a nice fellow, but I'm not going to vote for him, and I'm not going to vote for Romney. So, that leaves me without many options. I don't see much that I like in either of them. It's a tough world, and I don't think either of them is capable of representing this country right now."

    Haggard, who has had high-powered political figures courting him since the Nixon era, thinks candidates these days are too timid to speak about the matters that affect America in the most dramatic fashion.

    "There are many things that present a bigger problem for this country than the Middle East right now," he says. "Neither [Obama nor Romney] wants to address them. They're purposely staying away from the economy, for example, and it leaves me kind of empty. I don't have a good prognosis for the country over the next couple of years."’

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