DIARY - 14 JUNE 2010 - MERLE HAGGARD CD REVIEW
CD REVIEW -MERLE HAGGARD
I AM WHAT I AM (VANGUARD-SHOCK).
seen our greatest leaders break their people's hearts." - I've
Seen It Go Away - Merle Haggard.
is a fickle friend or foe - just ask former Californian convict and
country legend Merle Haggard.
The singer, now 73, boomeranged from lung cancer 18 months ago to
make one of his best albums of his career - his 76th.
It's simple for the singer who turned 21 in San Quentin after a bungled
back door burglary on a Bakersfield restaurant when it was still serving
We'll return to that later.
So when Merle hooked up as producer with Lou Bradley he tore up his
back pages for fodder.
The singer's rollcall of heroes Bob Wills and Elvis ignites his entrée
I've Seen It Go Away.
"When you've seen the very best/ the rest can hardly play."
Merle is not referring to old mate Shotgun Willie Nelson whose latest
album Country Music shares the top of the prestigious Americana
charts with The Hag.
doesn't stop with musical pretenders - he pillories precious politicians
(some of whom have eulogised him).
"Well, most everything that I thought I knew, I didn't know, and
I think opinions change over the years," Haggard revealed recently.
"That's why most politicians are liars - because if one of them changes
their mind, it upsets a lot of the party. But that's human nature. We
change. We do not stay the same. We have different skin every so often,
and I think our whole being changes and is ever changing. And we're not
the same, any of us."
Yes, fame can be a fleeting friend if you burn it on the vine.
IN LOVE AGAIN
having good times again, in old honky tonk bars/ staying out late again,
making love 'neath the stars/the children are grown now as our sunset
appears." - We're Falling In Love Again - Merle Haggard.
Haggard, who kissed the altar five times, reflects on diverse shades
of romance in Pretty When It's New and Live And Love Always.
The latter is a swinging soiree with singing spouse Theresa - a Samaritan
who rescued him in 1993 before joining him on his 1996 Australian
Theresa returns as co-writer on romance recovery How Did You Find
She also harmonises on nostalgic Oil Tanker Train - ripped
from his love affair with locos but daubed with a little self-deprecation.
Equally powerful is We're Falling In Love Again with lachrymose
lava heated by Scott Joss's fiddle.
son Ben, 17 and youngest of six offspring including singing siblings Noel
and Marty, joins the septuagenarian on harmonies.
Haggard is well qualified to sing of resurrected love - previous singing
spouses included Leona Williams and Bonnie Owens.
Owens, widow of late Bakersfield legend Buck, also toured here with Merle
long after splitting with both Buck and The Hag.
For eagle-eyed observers it was a harmonic history to catch the fifth
Mrs Haggard watching from the wings of Myer Music Bowl as the second Mrs
Haggard sang duets with The Hag.
Fans of seven times wed Texan Steve Earle had to settle for the fellow
former convict sharing darker Australian stages and microphones with latest
wife Alison Moorer.
never been much at making believe/don't have any tricks hidden up my sleeve/
if life is a harmony where's all the laughter/ because here on this stage
I'm a bad actor." - Bad Actor - Merle Haggard.
when Merle plays the lead in Bad Actor, paternal pride in Down
At The End Of The Road and rejected temptations of the flesh on the
road in Stranger In The City.
That's the magic of Haggard - his music is a reality-rooted reflection
of his own life.
Even when he's south of the border with fiddler Joss guesting on guitar
and harmonies with Theresa and trumpeter Don Markham on Mexican Bands.
Haggard has no shortage of fellow guitarists - legendary Reggie Young
and Red Lane, young Ben and Tim Howard.
Pianist Doug Colosio injects a western swing flavour with Strangers ace
Norm Hamlet, a 2005 quadruple heart bypass survivor, wheeling out his
pedal steel in the comfort of the singer's home studio.
Haggard makes no apologies for his vast past but is no longer a lonesome
fugitive or drifter on his fitting finale - the title track.
"I believe Jesus is God and a pig is just ham/ I'm just a seeker,
I'm just a sinner/ I am what I am."
Yes, a delicious dish.
OUT FOOTNOTES - NOT FOOTLIGHTS
who lost a brother to lung cancer at 74, has sung the praises of his surgeons.
"It was November 3, 2008," Haggard revealed in a recent interview.
"I went in for surgery and had the top part of my right lung removed.
It had a suspended, isolated cancer in there, and they got it. I didn't
have to do chemo or anything like that, and I healed up real well. I think
that it makes you look for ways to clean up your act when you get that
close to the deal. I was 71 years old, and I said, "Uh-oh. Lung cancer.
That's what I need right now." Insurance companies know when to kick
you out. There I was - 71 and hear "lung cancer," but as it
turned out, it's been a miracle. They got it, and I'm alive, and I didn't
have to do any of that old nasty stuff. So there is another great reason
for appreciating this period that I've been given."
spent his 21st birthday in San Quentin after that famed bungled Bakersfield
burglary on a Beer Can Hill restaurant.
Haggard told me
in a 1996 interview he shared a cellblock but not a cell with infamous
Red Light Bandit kidnapper-murderer Carryl Chessman who was executed
on May 2, 1960.
That was his reward for bad timing.
After swilling red wine, Haggard took a crowbar to the restaurant's
back screen door and was prying a lock when the proprietor said,
"Why don't you boys just come around to the front door like
we hadn't realised is that it wasn't three a.m. at all," Haggard
wrote in his autobiography, Sing Me Back Home. "Hell, it was
barely 10 and the place was still open with several customers inside.
Drunk as I was, I figured right away we'd made a slight miscalculation."
THE MRS MERLE'S
(1956 - 1964) - (divorced) four children - Dana, Marty, Kelli and Noel.
Bonnie Owens (28 January 1968 - 1978 - divorced)
Leona Williams (7 October 1978 - 1983 - divorced)
Debbie Parret (1 June 1985 - 1991 - divorced)
Theresa Ann Lane (11 September 1993 - present) - two children Jenessa
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