Merle Haggard

1996 – 1996 (Curb)

Reviewed by Chuck Hamilton

What with country music's youth movement, these aren't easy times for country music's old guard. Some, like Merle Haggard, just keep on keeping on. And if his newest album's any indication, the old guy's not ready to hang it up, anytime soon at least. This album has all the ingredients you'd expect to find in a Haggard album: well-crafted songs, solid arrangements, and the Hag's weathered voice tying it all together. The set starts off with a toe tapping "Sin City Blues," a song about New Orleans that appropriately enough features some Dixieland-style trumpet playing. It also displays one of Haggard's gifts: the ability to innovate without the music sounding less country. Haggard wrote all but one of the songs here but far and away the album's best cut is an Iris Dement number, "No Time to Cry," a song about growing older that avoids the cliches and manages to say a lot in just over four minutes. All in all, this may not become your favorite Haggard album, but it's got some real gems on it, and some of the others may grow on you.