The Hag’s Blues
I Am What I Am
In 1969 when I first heard “Okie From Muskogee” I was a little put off, but when Merle Haggard followed that with “The Fightin’ Side of Me” I purchased the live album of the same name. I have since remained a big Haggard fan owning more Haggard albums, most on cassette, then any other artist. I was thrilled when The Grateful Dead first recorded “Mama Tried” and thrilled again more recently when Albert Cummings covered “The Working Man Blues”.
There are many reasons why I love Haggard. He is a great vocalist; you may even call him a crooner. I remember turning my Mom and Dad onto “The 5:01 Blues”. They liked him because he has a great voice. He is also a great songwriter, having written his life into his music on songs like “Sing Me Back Home”, “The Bottle Let Me Down” and “Kern River”. Haggard is also able to write songs that are sentimental like “Its Only in The Movies” and “If We Make It Through December”. Thus, Haggard appeals to lovers, regardless of age.
Haggard has also paid significant tributes to those that came before him. I remember, as a child, seeing Lefty Frizzell on TV. I believe it was on the Johnny Carson show. You Tube features two Frizzell songs, “The Long Black Veil” and “I Got The Money”, which is a “must see”, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYUr4wNdDZc . Haggard sounds a lot like Frizzell and has often credited him as an influence. He has also paid tribute to “Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys” and has even recorded with them. “Asleep At The Wheel” is a “Bob Wills” tribute band. More importantly, for lovers of the Blues, is his 1969 “Same Train, A Different Time” album which is a tribute to the singing brakeman “Jimmie Rodgers”. Rodgers wrote such classics as “California Blues”, “Waitin For a Train”, “My Carolina Sunshine Girl”, “Mule Skinner Blues” and “Hobo Bill’s Last Ride”. Most older blues fans have an appreciation for Haggard. In 2000, Haggard made somewhat of a comeback, never really going away, when he released “If I Could Only Fly”.
Now at 73, Haggard continues to write his life into his music. His newest album, out since April, is “I Am What I Am”. When Haggard sings “I’ve Seen It Go Away”, and “Down at the End of The Road” there is a conviction and a believability that no other living country artist can match. For lover’s there is “love is always “Pretty When its New”, “Bad Actor” and “We’re Falling in Love Again”. Haggard plays guitar on all tracks but plays lead on “Oil Tanker Train” and two others. Haggard also plays fiddle on “Live and Love Always”. He has dobro sensation Rob Ikes from “Blue Highway” and long time band members Norm Hamlet on pedal steel, Biff Adam on drums and Don Markham on trumpet. Markham’s trumpet makes “Mexican Bands” sound like an old Marty Robbins record. Haggard’s wife Theresa sings harmony on their co-written “How Did You Find Me Here” and Haggard closes with “I believe Jesus is god and a pig is just ham, I’m just a seeker, I’m just a sinner, “I Am What I am”.
In my opinion Haggard remains the greatest living country music singer. This is Haggard’s 77th studio album. He also has 48 compilations and that doesn’t include live albums. He has had 96 singles and 38 number ones. This is yet another great album from a timeless romantic who sounds as good as ever. God bless “Merle the pearl”.