Merle Haggard tours with a pretty big band these days, but back in the 1960's and early 1970's, it was a lean ensemble that created his signature sound on live performances. It's that stripped-down sound that Redd Volkaert goes after - and gets - on his second solo release, and it should be no surprise; the burly Telecaster slinger has been playing lead for Haggard since 1997.
With his fellow Strangers Norm Hamlett (pedal steel) and Johnnie Barber (drums) along for the ride, Volkaert does a wonderful job of recreating the classic jazzed-up Bakersfield sound of 30 years ago on a number of original instrumentals as well as a delicate version of Haggard's "Forget You Every Day." On others, he opts for rockabilly or blues stylings, at which he is equally adept.
As a singer, Volkaert has a great ear for material, but the album's five vocals (including classics such as "Big, Big Love" and "End Of The Line") aren't its strongest attraction; he's a competent vocalist but no more. Still, this has a big, big dose of fine picking, and if you're already familiar with Redd's work with Haggard and want to hear him on his own, you'll be more than satisfied.