Merle Haggard
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Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography

 

Merle Haggard discography and album reviewsMerle Haggard discography and album reviews

Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard discography and album reviewsMerle Haggard discography and album reviews

 
Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
Merle Haggard 

Merle Haggard Discography  

Bio from the official Merle Haggard website
The word “legend” usually makes an appearance at some point when discussing Merle Haggard. It’s an acknowledgement of his artistry and his standing as “the poet of the common man.” It’s a tribute to his incredible commercial success and to the lasting mark he has made, not just on country music, but on American music as a whole. It’s apt in every way but one.

The term imposes an aura of loftiness that’s totally at odds with the grit and heart of Haggard’s songs. “I’d be more comfortable with something like “professor,” he once told a reporter, and the description suits him. Studying, analyzing and observing the details of life around him, Haggard relays what he sees, hears and feels through his songs. The lyrics are deceptively simple, the music exceptionally listenable. Others who have lived through those same situations recognize the truth in the stories he tells. But Haggard’s real gift is that anyone who hears his songs recognizes the truth in them. When a Merle Haggard song plays, it can make an innocent-as-apple-pie grandma understand the stark loneliness and self-loathing of a prisoner on death row; a rich kid who never wanted for any material possession get a feel for the pain of wondering where the next meal will come from; a tee-totaling pillar of the community sympathize with the poor heartbroken guy downing shots at the local bar.

As a result, Haggard found his songs at the top of the charts on a regular basis. Immediately embraced by country fans, he also earned the respect of his peers. In addition to the 40 #1 hits included here, Haggard charted scores of Top Ten songs. He won just about every music award imaginable, both as a performer and as a songwriter, and in 1994 was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. His body of work easily places him beside Hank Williams as one of the most influential artists in country music.

That’s quite an accomplishment for the boy who was once officially branded “incorrigible.”

Merle Ronald Haggard was born in 1937, outside Bakersfield, California. His parents, Jim and Flossie, moved the family there after their farm in Oklahoma burned down, with Jim finding work as a carpenter for the Santa Fe Railroad. The family lived in an old boxcar that they converted into a home. Though struggling to make a meager living, they had a sturdy shelter and food was always on the table.

Things changed dramatically after Jim died of a stroke when Merle was nine years old. It was a devastating event for the young boy, who was very close to his father. His mother went to work as a bookkeeper to make ends meet, often leaving Merle in the care of a great aunt and uncle. With his world turned upside down, Haggard turned rebellious. He hopped a freight train when he was just ten years old, making it to Fresno before being picked up by the authorities. It was the first step toward a youth of truancy from school and petty crime. For the next few years, Haggard would find himself in reform schools, sometimes making an escape, only to get thrown back in again.

The angel on his shoulder during these troubled times was Haggard’s love and talent for music. Though he gave it up before Merle was born, his father used to play fiddle and guitar in Oklahoma for schoolhouse dances and social gatherings. Not having an automobile or formal instrument cases, the senior Haggard would ride his horse to these gatherings, carrying his fiddle on one side of the horse and the guitar on the other, in large pillowcases.

Still some of the musical gift had been passed on to Merle, and he easily took to playing guitar. Starting out as a fan of Bob Wills, Haggard eventually found his musical idol in Lefty Frizzell, and worked up a pretty impressive copy of the original’s singing style. “For three or four years I didn’t sing anything but Lefty Frizzell songs,” Merle told Music City News. “And then, because Lefty was a fan of Jimmie Rodgers, I learned to imitate him too.” Haggard got the chance to see Lefty perform in person when he was 14. “He was dressed in white - heroes usually are,” Merle said.

The hero wasn’t a savior though, at least not in an immediate sense. Haggard was already starting to make small amounts of money here and there by playing music, but it wasn’t enough to keep him out of trouble. He left home at 15 with a friend, and the two were picked up as suspects in a robbery. Though innocent, he ended up in jail for two-and-a-half weeks. It was the first time he tasted prison life, but it wasn’t the last. In and out of jail over the years for small crimes, he found himself doing serious time in San Quentin at the age of 20.

“Going to prison has one of a few effects,” he told Salon in 2004. “It can make you worse, or it can make you understand and appreciate freedom. I learned to appreciate freedom when I didn’t have any.”

His musical ability offered hope for a future. A fellow inmate at San Quentin, nicknamed Rabbit, saw that clearly. When Rabbit came up with an escape plan, he told Haggard that he could come along, but probably shouldn’t, since he had a good shot of making a career from his singing.

As Rabbit had predicted, Haggard’s music was his way out of a dead-end life of small crimes and intermittent jail time. Released from San Quentin in 1960, he joined the then thriving Bakersfield country scene, which eschewed the smooth country-politan sound coming out of Nashville for a harder-hitting honky-tonk groove.

After making an impression working in local clubs, Haggard joined Las Vegas star Wynn Stewart’s band in 1962 as a bassist. When he got a chance to record his own single, Haggard chose the Stewart composition, “Sing A Sad Song.” It came out on the small Tally Records label in 1964, and made it into the Top Twenty. His follow up singles didn’t do quite as well, until “(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers” went into the Top Ten and brought him to the attention of Capitol Records. He proved himself a hit maker with three Top Ten singles in 1967, including his first #1, “The Fugitive.”

Songwriters Liz and Casey Anderson were inspired by a popular TV series, “The Fugitive.” But Haggard knew firsthand what it was like to be on the run. In some ways, he may have felt that he was in that same situation again. Here he’d successfully turned his life around, and he realized that his criminal past might now come back to slap him down. He made those feelings clear less than a year later in his next #1. The self-penned “Branded Man” includes the lines, “When they let me out of prison, I held my head up high/Determined I would rise above the shame/But no matter where I’m living, the black mark follows me/I’m branded with a number on my name.”

Haggard said Johnny Cash encouraged him to address his problems directly in verse. “I was bull-headed about my career. I didn’t want to talk about being in prison,” Haggard recalls, “but Cash said I should talk about it. That way the tabloids wouldn’t be able to. I said I didn’t want to do that and he said, ‘It’s just owning up to it.’” When Cash introduced him on his variety show, he said, “Here’s a man who writes about his own life and has had a life to write about.”

From that point on, Haggard stopped hiding the story of his past incarcerations, and his songs opened a window on the dark life of prisoners and ex-cons. “Sing Me Back Home,” another #1 in 1967, was written for his old friend Rabbit, who was executed after his escape plan led to the death of a prison guard. “Mama Tried,” which reached the top of the chart in 1968, offered an apology of sorts to Haggard’s religious and hardworking mother, absolving her of blame for his bad behavior.

He laid out all the other aspects of his life in subsequent songs, proving himself an adept lyricist who specialized in sorrow and pain, with the occasional dash of hope or humor.

His 1969 hit “Hungry Eyes,” a heartrending portrait of a family in poverty, includes a line about a “canvas-covered cabin,” a reference to the home of the great aunt and uncle he stayed with as a boy.

By 1969, Haggard had also won over a good portion of musicians and critics in the rock world. Rolling Stone itself pointed its readers toward his music. Producer Don Was, who has worked with Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Bonnie Raitt, told Newsweek in 1996, “He’ll tell you he’s a country singer, but to me the essence of rock and roll is a cry for freedom and rebellion. And I don’t know anyone who embodies it better. Every aspect of his life is a refusal to submit.”

Still, Was admits that when he went to see Haggard in concert in the late ’60s he tucked his hippie-length hair into a cowboy hat. It was a politically divisive time, with the Vietnam War serving as a lightning rod for opposing political views. Young people protested against the war and openly burned their draft cards, enraging those who felt it was their patriotic duty to support the war and the men who fought it. “Working Man Blues,” which came out in 1969, may have appealed to the rock crowd because of its hard-driving beat and its anti-elitism, but it delivered a clear message of solidarity to the blue collar country audience, with its uncomplimentary reference to welfare. That political stance was solidified with Haggard’s most popular song, “Okie From Muskogee.” He says the song started as a joke, and its tone definitely leans toward the humorous, but it also drew a clear line between “us” and “them.” Haggard spoke for the Americans who didn’t smoke marijuana, didn’t burn their draft cards, didn’t grow their hair long and shaggy and were “proud to wave Old Glory down at the courthouse.” Followed by the belligerent “Fightin’ Side of Me,” which undeniably challenged the anti-war protesters, it made Haggard a political symbol. In the ensuing years, Richard Nixon invited him to sing at the White House. Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, gave him an unconditional pardon for his past criminal offenses. George Wallace asked him for an endorsement - which Haggard turned down.

The furor caused by those two songs took Haggard by surprise, but he never shied away from writing songs with a strong point of view. In 1972, he released “I Wonder If They Ever Think Of Me,” which revisits Vietnam via the thoughts of a P.O.W., while 1973’s “If We Make It Through December” crystallized the worries of an unemployed father at a time when much of the U.S. was feeling the effects of a particularly difficult recession.

Of course, Haggard also wrote about more cheerful issues. “Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man)” in 1971, and “Grandma Harp” in 1972, both express his joy in music and how it saved him in low times.

All of the particulars of his existence were source material, and Haggard is a man who has been married five times. When his second marriage, to Bonnie Owens, was unraveling, the hurt came through in songs like “Things Aren’t Funny Anymore,” with the line “Seems we’ve lost the way to find/All the good times we found before.” Owens, who had previously been married to Buck Owens, was Haggard’s first duet partner and a good friend as well as his wife. His romantic devotion is apparent in “Always Wanting You,” a sigh of unrequited love that he wrote for Dolly Parton, who he pined for when his marriage to Bonnie was over.

His third wife, Leona Williams, was also a singer and songwriter. The sweetness of “ItÃ?¢’s All In The Movies,” mirrored Haggard’s renewed romantic happiness. Then, when that marriage began to crumble, fans heard the details in his recordings of “You Take Me For Granted,”Ã?? written by the soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Haggard and “Someday When Things Are Good,” written by both Merle and Leona.

Chances are good that Haggard also drew from personal experience when he sang such drinking songs as “Bar Room Buddies,” a duet with Clint Eastwood, and “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” in 1980.

Though the hits slowed down a bit in the following decades, Haggard never stopped making music. He started producing his own cuts for the first time, and “My Favorite Memory” and “Big City,” went to #1 in 1981. The next year he and George Jones made an album together, with their duet “Yesterday’s Wine,” reaching the top of the chart. Teaming up with another legend-in-the-making, Willie Nelson, Haggard scored again with the 1983 hit “Pancho and Lefty.” In 1987, he scored his last #1, “Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star.”

In the mid-nineties, with the release of the box set Down Every Road coming at the same time Haggard was releasing an album of new music, the media turned its attention to the long-ignored singer once more. His status as a living legend took hold about then, with good reason. It was overdue.

It would be difficult to find an artist as creative, as successful, and as stubbornly true to himself as Haggard. In between his hits, he made albums that paid tribute to the musicians who influenced him, like Jimmie Rodgers, Lefty Frizzell and Bob Wills - done out of respect rather than commercial calculation. He blended elements of jazz, rock, blues and folk music into his arrangements, while staying true to the traditions of country. No matter what the current fashion of the moment was in music, Haggard always went his own way.

“I’ll tell you what the public likes more than anything,” he told the Boston Globe, “It’s the most rare commodity in the world - honesty.”

 
Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
Merle Haggard Discography

In 2006 the early Capital Merle Haggard releases were brilliantly remastered and repackaged with two discs combined together, two for one. Further, there are bonus tracks to supplement the original albums. 

They did a remarkable job on the remastering. 

Strangers/ Swinging Doors And The Bottle Let Me Down
I'm A Lonesome Fugitive/ Branded Man 
Sing Me Back Home/ The Legend Of Bonnie & Clyde
Mama Tried/ Pride In What I Am 
Hag/ Someday We'll Look Back 

Also
Live Merle Haggard releases - DVD and audio

Additional Merle Haggard content will be provided in the future.

Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
Strangers/ Swinging Doors And The Bottle Let Me Down Audio CD MP3

Strangers 
 1. (My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers 
  2. Falling For You 
  3. Please Mr. D.J. 
  4. You Don't Have Far To Go 
  5. Sing A Sad Song 
  6. Sam Hill 
  7. I'm Gonna Break Every Heart I Can 
  8. You Don't Even Try 
  9. If I Had Left It Up To You 
10. I'd Trade All Of My Tomorrows 
11. The Worst Is Yet To Come 
12. Walking The Floor Over You 
Bonus tracks
13. I'm A Lonesome Fugitive - Alternate Take 
14. Jimmie The Kid 

Swinging Doors And The Bottle Let Me Down
15. Swinging Doors 
16. If I Could Be Him 
17. The Longer You Wait 
18. I'll Look Over You 
19. I Can't Stand Me 
20. The Girl Turned Ripe 
21. The Bottle Let Me Down 
22. No More You And Me 
23. Someone Else You've Known 
24. High On A Hilltop 
25. This Town's Not Big Enough 
26. Shade Tree (Fix It Man)
Bonus tracks
27. Skid Row 
28. When No Flowers Grow 
29. I Threw Away The Rose 

Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
I'm A Lonesome Fugitive/ Branded Man Audio CD MP3

I'm A Lonesome Fugitive

  1. I'm A Lonesome Fugitive 
  2. All Of Me Belongs To You 
  3. House Of Memories 
  4. Life In Prison 
  5. Whatever Happened To Me 
  6. Drink Up And Be Somebody 
  7. Someone Told My Story 
  8. If You Want To Be My Woman 
  9. Mary's Mine 
10. Skid Row 
11. My Rough And Rowdy Ways 
12. Mixed Up Mess Of A Heart 
Bonus tracks
13. Life In Prison
14. Someone Told My Story

Branded Man
15. Branded Man 
16. Loneliness Is Eating Me Alive 
17. Don't Get Married 
18. Somewhere Between 
19. You Don't Have Far To Go 
20. Gone Crazy 
21. I Threw Away The Rose 
22. My Hands Are Tied 
23. Some Of Us Never Learn 
24. Long Black Limousine 
25. Go Home 
26. I Made The Prison Band 
Bonus tracks
27. I Threw Away The Rose 
28. Loneliness Is Eating Me Alive

Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
Sing Me Back Home/ The Legend Of Bonnie & Clyde  Audio CD MP3

Sing Me Back Home

  1. Sing Me Back Home 
  2. Look Over Me 
  3. The Son Of Hickory Holler's Tramp 
  4. Wine Takes Me Away 
  5. If You See My Baby 
  6. Where Does The Good Times Go 
  7. I'll Leave The Bottle On The Bar 
  8. My Past Is Present 
  9. Home Is Where A Kid Grows Up 
10. Mom And Dad's Waltz 
11. Good Times 
12. Seeing Eye Dog 

The Legend Of Bonnie & Clyde 
13. The Legend Of Bonnie And Clyde 
14. Is This The Beginning Of The End? 
15. Love Has A Mind Of Its Own 
16. The Train Never Stops 
17. Fool's Castle 
18. Will You Visit Me On Sundays? 
19. My Ramona 
20. Today I Started Loving You Again 
21. Money Tree 
22. You've Still Got A Place In My Heart 
23. Because You Can't Be Mine 

Bonus Tracks
24. News Break 
25. A Picture From Two Sides of Life 

Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
Mama Tried/ Pride In What I Am  Audio CD MP3
 Mama Tried
  1. Mama Tried 
  2. Green Green Grass Of Home 
  3. Little Ole Wine Drinker Me 
  4. In The Good Old Days 
  5. I Could Have Gone Right 
  6. I'll Always Know 
  7. The Sunny Side Of My Life 
  8. Teach Me To Forget 
  9. Folsom Prison Blues 
10. Run 'Em Off 
11. You'll Never Love Me Now 
12. Too Many Bridges To Cross Over 

Bonus Tracks
13. I'm Looking For My Mind
14. You're Not Home Yet

Pride In What I Am 
15. I Take A Lot Of Pride In What I Am 
16. Who'll Buy The Wine 
17. The Day The Rains Came 
18. It Meant Goodbye To Me When You Said Hello To Him 
19. I Can't Hold Myself In Line 
20. I'm Bringin' Home Good News 
21. Keep Me From Cryin' Today 
22. I Just Want To Look At You One More Time 
23. Somewhere On Skid Row 
24. I'm Free 
25. California Blues 
26. I Think We're Livin' In The Good Old Days 

Bonus Tracks
27. California On My Mind
28. White Line Fever
29. Streets Of Berlin

Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
Hag/ Someday We'll Look Back Audio CD MP3
 Hag 

  1. Soldier's Last Letter 
  2. Shelly's Winter Love 
  3. Jesus, Take A Hold 
  4. I Can't Be Myself 
  5. I'm A Good Loser 
  6. The Sidewalks Of Chicago 
  7. No Reason To Quit 
  8. If You've Got Time 
  9. The Farmer's Daughter 
10. I've Done It All 

Bonus tracks
11. I Ain't Got Nobody
12. I'll Be A Hero 
13. Trouble In Mind 

Someday We'll Look Back

14. Someday We'll Look Back 
15. Train Of Life 
16. One Sweet Hello 
17. One Row At A Time 
18. Big Time Annie's Square 
19. I'd Rather Be Gone 
20. California Cottonfields 
21. Carolyn 
22. Tulare Dust 
23. Huntsville 
24. The Only Trouble With Me 

Bonus tracks
25. Spanish Two Step
26. Worried, Unhappy, Lonesome And Sorry

Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
Other Merle Haggard

Below are some Merle Haggard releases worth seeking out.
Going Where the Lonely Go / That's the Way Love Goes

Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
Going Where the Lonely Go / That's the Way Love Goes  
Going Where the Lonely Go
1. Going Where the Lonely Go 
2. Why Am I Drinkin' 
3. If I Left It Up to You 
4. I Won't Give Up My Train 
5. Someday You're Gonna Need Your Friends 
6. Shopping for Dresses 
7. You Take Me for Granted 
8. Half a Man 
9. For All I Know 
10. Nobody's Darlin' But Mine 

That's the Way Love Goes
11. What Am I Gonna Do (With the Rest of My Life) 
12. (I'm Gonna Paint Me) A Bed of Roses 
13. Someday When Things Are Good 
14. That's the Way Love Goes 
15. Carryin' Fire 
16. Don't Seem Like We've Been Together All Our Lives 
17. If You Hated Me 
18. Love Will Find You 
19. Last Boat of the Day 
20. I Think I'll Stay 

Liner Notes Colin Escott - Nashville 2004
A solid pair of albums from 1982 and 1983 on the Epic label.  Re-issue in 2005.

Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
Live Merle Haggard - DVD and Audio

Below are some live Merle Haggard releases worth seeking out.

Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
Merle Haggard - Live from Austin, TX DVD Audio CD
Product Description
The Live From Austin, Texas series takes the classic performances from the award winning Austin City Limits TV show and makes them available to consumers with improved audio quality and bonus songs that were cut from the original broadcast. This latest set includes performances from some of country music’s Outlaws including Merle Haggard, trailblazers who didn’t follow the trends and refused to play by the rules set by Music Row. Merle is in fine form here in his October 1985 performance from Austin City Limits studios. Also available on DVD 
Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
Live from Austin, TX '78 DVD Audio CD
Product DescriptionVideo Description
When he stepped onto the Austin City Limits stage for the very first time on that brisk January day in 1978, Merle Haggard was at the top of his game. It had been over a decade since his first national hit, "Sing A Sad Song," and not that long after Okie from Muskogee had firmly planted his music in the public consciousness. He had already been declared Entertainer of the Year by both the Country Music Awards and Academy of Country Music in the same year (1970). He had just released A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or My Salute to Bob Wills), which sparked a revival of interest in western swing. And with his band, the Strangers, it’s no stretch to say that he had the best live show in country music of his day. This package contains both a CD and DVD of Merle Haggard’s very first Austin City Limits performance, recorded in January, 1978, and contains 12 different songs than the previous Live From Austin, Texas release (recorded in 1985.)

Track Listing:
1. Working Man Can t Get Nowhere Today
2. Silver Wings
3. Ramblin’ Fever
4. The Fugitive Song
5. Sing Me Back Home
6. Orange Blossom Special
7. Old-Fashioned Love
8. Long Black Limousine
9. Cherokee Maiden
10. San Antonio Rose
11. Misery
12. The Farmer s Daughter
13. Brain Cloudy Blues
14. Workin’ Man Blues
Merle Haggard - Reviews and recommendations - Discography
 

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