Review Summary: A solid album from a legendary Artist that proves country music may still have something to offer the casual fan if they dig a little bit.
Few artists have had impact on their genre the way Merle Haggard has. The story of his rise to fame is one of music’s best stories of someone overcoming struggles early on.(He served time in San Quentin, but was later pardoned) He has been actively writing and performing music since the 1960’s. Haggard's new album to me is in the mold of Johnny Cash’s American recordings. Their sound is not all that alike but it shows that both artist still have something to say and can perform at a high level. I realized that many may not be actively listening to country music, but do not let that restrict you from sampling Haggard’s latest offering.
Haggard’s latest album is entitled Working in Tennessee, and it is definitely a throwback to time almost forgotten. A time when country music was dominated by a diverse collection of artist writing and singing songs for the common man. Haggard serves as a time capsule when country artist wrote songs from life experiences and could truly convey the emotions of a song. One thing I immediately take away from the album is that Merle is truly having fun, and this is how he manages to actively record quality music. Most of the songs are upbeat and very cheerful with the exception of a couple serious statement songs. Highlights from this album include a cover of the TJ Armall penned “Cocaine Blues”. Cash made this song famous on his live albums but Haggard puts his own stamp on the song. "Too Much Boogie Woogie" makes a great statement about the current state of country music. Haggard sings “there’s too much boogie woogie and not enough Connie Smith”. My take is that modern pop country has taken away from country’s unique classic sound created by artist who could make the song come alive. There is a great collaboration between Haggard and Willie Nelson in the track "Working Man Blues", and both artist are in top form. The album closes with another cover and that is Johnny Cash and June Carter’s famous "Jackson". Haggard wife Teresa handles the female vocals and the pair does a tremendous job of elevating the songs modern interpretation into a classic version. Overall Haggard’s voice sounds as strong and polished as ever, and the backing musicians give the album a boost
Even if you have no interest in country music I would recommend this album for you to try out. We truly need to embrace these legendary country artists like Willie and Merle, because one day they will be gone. This late in Haggard’s career it is truly a treat to hear him create such quality music when he could of hung it up a long time ago. I myself am not a country music fan, but I enjoy hearing artist who have complete artistic control over their music. Some fans new to country may have a hard time embracing every song, but they can definitely appreciate what the legendary Mr. Haggard contributes.