Merle Haggard returns with a new album,”Working In Tennessee ” on Vanguard Records. After battling lung cancer and heart problems, The Hag has written on his web site that he is now “a healthy miracle.” And he’s got a great new album to boot. Things are looking good for the Country Music Icon.
The album starts off with a swing and hit. The lead and title track “Working In Tennessee” is a light and fun (a la Bob Wills) track about singin’ for a livin’ with great instrumentation and Merle giving it the gusto it needs, even a lil’ growl when the occasion calls for it.
Merle has always been good at telling it like it is. Take “Too Much Boogie Woogie” where he makes it clear how he feels about the music of today. ….”there’s too much boogie woogie, not enough Connie Smith (or Hank and Kris)…” “Under The Bridge” has Merle in his usual musical style in a story of a hard-luck homeless man as he faces hard times with hope.
The whole album is true Hag, a pepper of classics with some great newbies. A great duet with Willie Nelson (and classic willie guitar solo) on a swingin’ “Working Man Blues, and a cover of “Jackson” with wife Teresa. A surprisingly laid back swing-style cover “Cocaine Blues,” seems to be delivered with a subtle undertone of humor. This lighter approach appears throughout the album in places, indicating Merle is at a more peaceful time in his life. Perhaps battling life threatening illnesses that seem to be at bay for now, have given him a new outlook. Take “Laugh It Off,” a bluesy tune (with some great b3 accents and short but kick-ass sax solo) telling us not to take life too seriously, just “laugh it off.”
It is clear Merle Haggard, at 74, still loves making music, and finds new ways to share his joy in it, and what he’s learned about life. There’s only one Hag. He’s always put his whole self into his music. You should put your whole self into a link right HERE to download this CD, just sayin’ is all.
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Andrea Fennel is native Texan who was raised outside of San Antone, and now resides in the outskirts of Phoenix. She’s a freelance writer for several music publications. She plays the piano, saxophone, guitar and cello and enjoys hiking, hang gliding, and certain hippie activities.
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