Speaks his mind on music & movies!
I thought I’d expose all you Heavy Metal, Blues, Jazz, Pop, Prog Heads whatever you listen to, to a little Haggard as in Merle Haggard. CB loves Merle’s music and having this line up of artists paying tribute on this record made me feel like I was in good company.
Merle writes, sings and plays some of the best American music CB has ever heard. He was one of the keepers of traditional country and western swing (He turned CB onto Bob Wills). All these artists have big shoes to fill singing Merle’s songs. Did they make CB forget Merle’s versions? No. But they do a damn good job of paying tribute to someone they respect and they do great versions.
When this album came out i was listening to a lot of Dave Alvin (The Blasters) and Tom Russell. So when I heard that they were or had teamed up to produce this album I was on board to grab it. Alvin, Russell and Peter Case came to my home town at the time and it just further peaked my interest. Plus I read a write up by a music guy I respected (similar to all you people I find on these pages) who wrote a great piece on the record. When I think of Merle some things that come to mind are Steinbeck, Guthrie, working people, fiddles, jails, hard times. I came to Merle in the 70’s and went on a binge. My first taste of his songs were from Gram Parsons. I grabbed an album called ‘Big City’ and I’ve been on the Haggard train since.
Russell opens up the record with ‘Tulare Dust/They’re Tearing the Labor Camps Down’. The song is all Merle and a piece of American history. Steinbeck and Guthrie are all over this one. Dave Alvin closes the record with ‘Kern River’ one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. It moves me down to the bone. Alvin more than does it justice. Another piece of American and Merle’s history. He writes a lot about change and the first and last songs on the album stay true to that style. We all have Memories, these are Hags.
In between these two songs we get various renditions of Haggard’s material. Not all of these are CB favorites but the artists have some kind of connection to them. There’s a good cross section of styles so you get a taste of “various artists”. Some of the ones that stand out to CB are Iris Dement, Joe Ely, Marshall Crenshaw (great version of Silver Wings), Peter Case, John Doe (from the band X but feeling his country roots). This was my first exposure to people like Lucinda Williams, Barrence Whitfield and others. None of them try to reinvent the songs they just sing Merle’s words their way. Worked for me.
Song writers like Joe Ely, Dave Alvin, Tom Russell are all up there with my favorite North American songwriters, Springsteen , Fogerty, Robertson, Van Zandt, Prine, Jerry Jeff, Guy Clark, Greg Brown
Like I said off the top these artists give a nod to one of CB’s favorite musicians. I pull this record out regularly along with all the Merle Haggard music I have. I dig Merle!
( Thom did a great take on Merle’s Kern River, check it out. https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2016/02/22/merle-haggard-dave-alvin-emmylou-harris-kern-river/ )
This is CB’s other contribution to Vinyl Connections “Various Artists” concoction. It was a certified cacophony of coolness by a cast of cool cats. CB is ready to collect his collection together for the next Bruce collaboration (CBs stab at doing Ellroy).
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