Sunday, January 2, 2011


Merle Haggard's latest, I Am What I Am, is another album from 2010 that I really enjoyed but just missed making my top 10.

I remember talking about this album on The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick, and Larry saying that he preferred this album to the Johnny Cash American series.  I was like, "what?" I love that series.  But he felt that this album was less forced, and I have to concede that that's true. No big name producers, no bold faced collaborators, no attention grabbing covers.

It's a great title for the album: Hag isn't trying to appeal to new audiences on it, but hopefully some younger people may happen upon the album and want to hear more from him.  Starting with "I've Seen It Go Away," Hag's observations of the way culture has changed (or declined) over his lifetime. That kind of unflinching honesty is all over the album, and it's not just negative.  "We're Falling In Love Again" is lovely.

Interesting that I'm writing this just days after seeing the televised broadcast of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors, where Merle was honored along with Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey and other cultural icons were celebrated for their contributions to American culture.  Hag could have retired decades ago and still deserved this honor.  But it's amazing that he is still putting out great albums; his story isn't over. In fact, he says as much in this recent Rolling Stone interview.  He talks about doing an album with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson (Hag and Willie, along with Ray Price, released an album, Last Of The Breed, in 2007).  He also decries the right wing attacks on our President, a nice touch from the guy who wrote "Okie From Muskogee."

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