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Merle Haggard
Working in Tennessee - VANGUARD
FILTER Grade: 86%

By Paul Zollo on October 3, 2011


Merle Haggard

Another link in a chain of classic albums by a man who has forever changed the face of country. At 74, one of American music’s patriarchs sounds as sprite as ever, kicking off with a great honky-tonk anthem, the joyous title song. Beating lung cancer back in 2008, which Haggard assumed would be his death sentence, this is music from the brink and back. Beautifully produced by the artist and Lou Bradley, these tracks lovingly frame his iconic locomotive voice with bright acoustics, stinging electric guitar leads, gypsy violin and clean-shuffling drums. A close pal of the late Johnny Cash, Hag pays tribute to his old friend by dueting with his own wife Theresa, as Johnny did with June, on the classic “Jackson.” Also with Theresa, he wrote the lovely “Under the Bridge,” a celebration of simple things ideal for these trying times. Willie Nelson is also here on a gloriously incandescent “Working Man’s Blues.” So great it is to hear these two beloved voices, these American survivors, as Merle declares, “I’ll keep working as long as my two hands are fit to use.” That says it all—even living legends got to make a living. Fortunately, Merle’s still working, he’s still dreaming and he’s singing better than ever.

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