Merle Haggard

The Bluegrass Sessions | McCoury Music | Working Man’s Journey | Cracker Barrel
By JEFF TAMARKIN  |  August 28, 2007
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Merle Haggard has always been a keen observer of American thought and spirit. On two new releases (he’s also one-third of a recent collaboration with Willie Nelson and Ray Price, Last of the Breed), his observations, insight, and wit are as sharp as ever, and his weathered voice still beams strength and integrity. “I miss America,” Hag states in “What Happened?”, a standout on The Bluegrass Sessions. “Everything Wal-Mart all the time, no more mom-and-pop five-and-dime.” The title is a bit of a misnomer — the instrumentation isn’t classic bluegrass, and the album is mostly solo-sung — but The Bluegrass Sessions is acoustic, and its simply structured songs, vivid portraits of folks who pray and work and reminisce, are all classic Hag. The equally good Working Man’s Journey is more traditional Haggard. Half new material and half remakes, it balances disillusionment and optimism, lamenting war and unemployment, yearning for a time “when a president goes through the White House door and does what he says he’ll do,” and wondering, “Does anyone need a good songman?” Anyone who does will know who to call.

Merle Haggard + Willie Nelson + Ray Price | Bank of American Pavilion, Northern Avenue, Boston | September 4 | 617.931.2000
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