Californian legend Merle Haggard has been touring with Bob Dylan, recording with George Jones and returned to his embryonic label Capitol for a couple of CDS.
Sadly, none of those have been released here in Australia so we'll return to the start of the millenium for a review of his last local release of original songs.



Merle Haggard doesn't have to borrow a book or surf the net to source his songs.

There's been enough marital mayhem, prison, dope and daily drama in his 63 years to fill two auto-biographies, a bio-pic, four tribute albums and countless other books and documentaries.

Now Merle has followed the lead of peers Johnny Cash, Waylon & Willie and David Allan Coe and cut his new album for an alternate label - Anti-Epitaph- Shock)

Haggard may have just been discovered by the cafe latte set but he has now released more than 150 albums including two current gospel discs, a Live At Billy Bob's and another 43-track compilation.

But this is his first mainstream studio album since his widely lauded 1994 and 1996 discs which were ignored by radio.

Haggard sets the tone with Wishing All These Old Things Were New - kicking a yearning for long past dazed days.

"Watching some old friends do a line/ holding back the want to end my own addicted mind/ wishing it was still the thing I could do/ wishing all these old things were new."

It's this soul bearing, reflected in career spanning five decades, that makes Merle a credible character and mentor to so many.

It embraces original tunes Turn To Me, Crazy Moon and the assertive but rollicking swing saga Bareback.


Haggard first recorded Blaze Foley's soul-searching title track with Willie Nelson on their 1987 disc Seashores Of Old Mexico and sang it at Tammy Wynette's memorial service.

Ironically, the evocative song was penned two decades ago by Foley who was murdered on February 1, 1989, by a man named January.

The mellow side of Haggard is exposed in the apologetic I'm Still Your Daddy - sequel to Branded Man, Lonesome Fugitive and many others - written to the children of his fifth marriage.

Singing spouse Theresa and children Ben and Jenessa harmonise as Merle croons - "I knew some day you'd find out about San Quentin/ and your heart would break/ and your faith would go away."

But Haggard, unlike many peers, is saved - but not by a higher being.

"It's true I've done some time in prison/ let be the first to tell you I was wrong/ that was back when I was wild/ back when I was just a child/ back before your mama came along."

Merle further exposes his passion for Theresa in Proud To Be Your Old Man and Leaving's Getting Harder while Thanks To Uncle John is built on the foundations of Mama Tried and segues into the lonesome finale Listening To The Wind.

And, like his self produced 1996 disc, he uses members of his road band Abe Manuel Jr on guitar, harp and fiddle, steel player Norm Hamlet and drummer Biff Adams.

This time his road guitarist Red Volkaert struts his stuff on tunes reaching back as far as Honky Tonk Mama which was recorded by two time Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis, now 101, back in 1933.

It's ironic Haggard, one of the original outlaws, is getting a big push because he is on a punk label.

Unlike the punks he lived life on the edge 40 years ago and can still sing.



Merle Haggard returned to embryonic label Capitol for a trip down nostalgia lane in the style of soul mate Willie on Unforgettable (EMI).

Merle croons through pop staples from Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael and Arthur Hamilton's Cry Me A River.

Haggard breaks up the pop with Cindy Walker's Goin' Away Party, a co-write with fifth wife Theresa on What Love Can Do and Still Missing You featuring its writer Freddie Powers on guitar.

Guitarist Abe Manuel provides accordion and fiddle with brother Joe and veteran Red Volkaert also on guitar.

A dose of sax, trombone and strings replaces pedal steel on a 12-track disc produced by Powers with Bruce Springsteen's sister Pamela credited with Merle's photos.

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