Merle Haggard “Golden Classics”

Ultra Fidelis’ Musical Favorites

haggard_classics(CD Double Play DBLP4001.2)

Merle is just the man. He’s known as “The Outlaw” these days, not so much because of his years in prison and trouble with the law, but more because he is anything but a Nashville insider. Of course he did do three years in San Quentin at the end of a string of 17 incarcerations, but since then Merle has been on the straight and narrow, sort of. Aside from his many convictions, Merle has been married five times with six children, battled alcohol and drugs, womanizing and a re-occurring gambling addiction- all of which he has overcome in recent years. The good news is that all of that trouble provided Merle with plenty of great song writing material and a deep appreciation for the freedom to record and perform his music.

He’s such a great singer/songwriter that he makes the current crop of “country” artists seem like a bunch of rookies trying make it on American Idol or Star Search. Merle’s songs are mostly based on his own life, which is fascinating in and of itself. But it’s his voice and his incredible vocal control that makes him stand head and shoulders above everyone else.

This compilation is a perfect place to start if you aren’t yet a Hag fan. It’s one great song after another, and all of them are perfectly executed. After a while you get the feeling that Merle and the Strangers can do no wrong. Yet nothing about Merle’s style is predictable. Merle’s music reminds me of Mozart’s in that every melody takes a slightly different or unexpected turn yet comes out sounding just right in the end. Trying to sing along to Haggard’s music is tempting even when you don’t totally know the songs, but be careful because like the melodies, the words are far from predictable. I can’t tell you how many times my friend Soupy and I have driven around in his Bronco butchering Merle’s beautiful lyrics. At a time when the radio is flooded with Garth, Shania and friends, who have nothing meaningful to say and not enough talent anyway, it’s really refreshing to listen to a real guy like Merle who’s songs and stories are so provocative and so beautifully performed.

If you are at all reluctant to listen to country music, don’t let that keep you from appreciating perhaps the greatest voice of them all.



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