Category: Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard – I’m a Lonesome Fugitive

ARTIST: Merle Haggard                                    imalonesomefugitive

TITLE:  I’m a Lonesome Fugitive

YEAR RELEASED: 1967

CHART ACTION: #165, #3 Country

SINGLES: I’m a Lonesome Fugitive (#3 Country)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Life in Prison

LINEUP: Merle Haggard, James Burton, Glen Campbell, Billy Mize, Lewis Talley, Ralph Mooney, Glen D. Hardin, Jerry Ward, James Gordon, Bonnie Owens

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The title cut is a classic, and the rest of the album is quite complementary, making this a great 60’s country album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Merle Haggard was one of the few country artists not to succumb to the ‘hit plus filler’ country album that many lesser artists churned out in the 60’s.

The title cut is a legendary country song from the husband and wife team of Liz and Casey Anderson, but Hag writes most of the other songs on the record and they’re good quality as well. “Life in Prison” is his self-penned classic here – a tale of woe covered by so many others, including the Byrds.

The band was full of LA hotshots, and included great backing vocals by Bonnie Owens. All in all, a great country album – and a rare one to cross over somewhat to the pop charts.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: When the songwriters played “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive” to Haggard, they were unaware that he actually did time at San Quentin.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-:  Another great country album from Haggard, and the deep cuts are worthy as well.

Merle Haggard – Swinging Doors

ARTIST: Merle Haggard          Swingingdoors

TITLE:  Swinging Doors

YEAR RELEASED: 1966

CHART ACTION: #1 Country

SINGLES:  Swinging Doors (#5 Country), The Bottle Let Me Down (#3 Country)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Merle Haggard, Roy Nichols, Ralph Mooney, Bonnie Owens and many other session people like James Burton, Glen Campbell, Glen D. Hardin and Jim Gordon

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A top-to-bottom good-to-great album from Haggard, who was emerging as the new voice of traditional country music.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, the two big hits are on every Haggard compilation that you could get, but by going that route you short change yourself the vision of Haggard, the songwriter.

Ten of the twelve songs here are from Haggard’s pen, and his interpretation of “High on a Hilltop” is a big winner. Most of the songs are first class, and even the ones that are lesser lights are redeemed by Haggard and crew’s performance.

The steel guitar of Mooney, the backing vocals of Owens and Nichol’s distinctive telecaster shine through this album, and the production from Ken Nelson and Fuzzy Owens is top notch.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album was recorded in four separate sessions, but it seems like it was all done in the same session period. The title track was completed in August of 1965, and the finishing touches were done a year later.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Put this into your country music collection, for sure.

 

Merle Haggard – Strangers

ARTIST: Merle Haggard StrangersMerleHaggard
TITLE: Strangers
YEAR RELEASED: 1965
CHART ACTION: #9 Country
SINGLES: Sing a Sad Song (#19 Country), Sam Hill (#45 Country), (My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers (#10 Country), I’m Gonna Break Every Heart I Can (#42 Country)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not by Hag
LINEUP: Merle Haggard with session players and strings. STRINGS! It was early.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Capitol buys Merle’s release from his old contract, along with his old masters, and using their marketing muscle, breaks Hag in the nationwide market.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: From the beginning, Merle Haggard had that something that separates the average and the exceptional. One listen to the title cut of this album, and you can tell he’s a cut above the normal 60’s country artists. There’s a vulnerability along with a determination that he carries in his voice.

The pause during the second line of the refrain of Sing a Sad Song is the sign of a great artist, and that was his first single.

The four singles are the big ones, and there’s filler, but a lot of the filler has something that normal hacky country filler songs don’t. Hag was on the way.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: One of the co-owners from Merle’s old record company became his manager.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+: There’s some good stuff, and a couple I’m exiling, but it’s a great 60’s country album.

Country albums in the sixties had a lot of filler, but there’s less on this one. I’m going to review every Haggard album (as opposed to some other country artists where I’ll just grab a collection or two because of the blatant filler) because of his quality and distinction.