Merle Haggard I Wish I Could Fly (Anti/Epitaph)

I Wish I Could Fly (Anti/Epitaph)

Record Reviews

Merle Haggard

I Wish I Could Fly (Anti/Epitaph)

Merle Haggard on Epitaph? Well, don't look for him to be touring with Bad Religion or Pennywise anytime soon, but it makes sense when you think about it. After all, he's made a career of being an outlaw, and god knows Haggard and many of his contemporaries have been left in the cold by the Nashville establishment. While his Seventies hits like "Silver Wings" and "Are the Good Times Really Over" hinted at a pensive side to the Hag's bad-boy persona, I Wish I Could Fly finds the 63-year-old Bakersfield native in a more reflective mood than ever. "Wishing All These Old Things Were New" and the album's title track are stripped-down and elegiac to the point of practically being folk songs, Haggard's voice as craggy as his features, while "Crazy Moon" heads south of the border and "Honky Tonky Mama" finds Haggard and the Strangers in a more familiar Western swing vein. Even the band is more restrained, with Austin-based guitarist Redd Volkaert (see "Redd Light Special," p. 86) reining in his usual quirky country-jazz licks and practically crawling into Hag's pocket. Don't expect any anthems about prison, booze, brawling, or women, though. This is a different sort of Merle Haggard disc, emotional without being too sentimental, intense in a low-key sort of way, serious without ever being too solemn. Even country legends get older, and like Johnny Cash, Haggard's doing it gracefully. (Merle Haggard & the Strangers play Stubb's Thursday, Nov. 9.)

***

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