Merle Haggard

Working Man's Journey – 2007 (Cracker Barrel)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Merle Haggard must be in competition with compadre Willie Nelson about who can release the most CDs. Not clear who's ahead, but both demonstrate they are unwilling to fade away quietly. This CD includes six new songs and six new recordings of Hag songs like "Workin' Man Blues" and "Kern River." (although it's not at all clear when they were recorded).

Haggard shows no signs of slowing down as his vocals are on target. His take on "Workin' Man Blues" is less forceful than the previous version, but that doesn't mean it lacks in quality. He picks up the pace on the new song "Like A Train Left The Tramp," with Doug Colosio on piano and mainstay Joe Manuel on guitar, about being left behind by his woman.

To the Hag's credit, the disc is seamless with no real difference between old and new. The new "Poor Boy Mansion" cooks with Don Markham on sax, while remake of the 1973 hit "If We Make It Through December" shows no signs of age.

"In the Mountains to Forgot" is clunky lyrically with references to Hussein and Bin Ladn. Haggard closes with "Songman," asking "Does anyone need a good songman?" The albums keep coming from Haggard, and he demonstrates we still need this type of songman.