Merle Haggard

Big City – 1999 (Sony)

Reviewed by Holly Gleason

"Big City" may not have his biggest or most famous songs on it, but has over the years held up as a subtle gem for Merlee Haggard. From the swinging title track to the hushed "My Favorite Memory of All," this is one man's declaration of "who I am here and now" based upon a life of ruminating on the question. Even the swirling "Good Ole American Guest"* is a sweeping slice of what it means to be alive and proud of one's heritage.

Haggard is that most cliched of monikers: an American original. He's forged a career and a catalogue of songs that are based on the truth of life in the 20th century as he's witnessed it. At times harsh, he's found a spectrum of moments that reflect the diversity of truly living - and when the work is the centerpiece (as in "Big City"), the lack of retrospective content isn't the issue for the quality of the whole transcends.