Merle Haggard was and is the defining voice of the famous Bakersfield sound, and next to the late Johnny Cash, he is one of the USA’s most treasured musician/singers to grace a stage.
Haggard returns on April 20 with his new CD I Am What I Am, his first disc for Vanguard Records, and an inspired effort from a rejuvenated legend.
The effort was co-produced by Merle with longtime cohort Lou Bradley, and the disc features 12 songs including the candid title track, with typically stellar playing from Merle’s band the Strangers.
Mr. Haggard turns inward on his new disc, and some of the songs are occasionally tinged with regret, but his new CD is no place for apologies – indeed, the tone of these tracks is celebratory as often as not, the reflection of a man profoundly comfortable in his weathered skin.
Also featured are Don Markham’s understated trumpet work that lends both vibrancy to pensive tracks and restraint to rowdier cuts, and Doug Colosio’s piano offers a reference point to Merle’s Western swing roots (notably on “Pretty When It’s New” and “The Road To My Heart”).
The new CD is anchored by The Strangers – which, in addition to Markham and Colosio, includes drummer Biff Adam, Norm Hamlet on steel guitar, Scott Joss on fiddle and guitar, and Kevin Williams on bass with lead guitars from Tim Howard and Merle’s son Ben Haggard – while a short list of guest musicians (including Bob Dylan drummer George Receli) sound right at home with the band in the comfortable confines of Shade Tree Manor studio in Northern California.
Merle also lets loose on a duet with his wife Theresa on the rollicking “Live And Love Always,” revisits his childhood on “Oil Tanker Train,” and finds the contentment of home sweet home on “Down At The End Of The Road.”
For more on Merle Haggard, go to www.merlehaggard.com.
The track listing for I AM WHAT I AM is as follows:
1. I’ve Seen It Go Away
2. Pretty When It’s New
3. Oil Tanker Train
4. Live And Love Always
5. The Road To My Heart
6. How Did You Find Me Here
7. We’re Falling In Love Again
8. Bad Actor
9. Down At The End Of The Road
10. Stranger In The City
11. Mexican Bands
12. I Am What I Am