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MERLE HAGGARD —BIG CITY / GOING WHERE THE LONELY GO (BGO)

www.bgo-records.com

Here we have yet another splendid 2-for-1 album from BGO. Merle Haggard has to be in the running as the greatest country music act of all-time, and not just the fifty years. Yes, it is almost that long, because he first charted in December 1963. Though Merle no longer troubling the charts he is still making first-class albums. As in his most recent release, Working In Tennessee (Vanguard) Merle’s standard of work is still up with the best. At the time, 1980-81 of the releases here he had only just cut his ties with MCA and was charting big-time (solo and soon after via duets with Willie Nelson and George Jones). Two songs from Big City, the title track and ‘My Favorite Memory’ both topped the singles charts and he all but did it with the reflective ace ‘Are The Good Times Really Over (I Wish A Buck Was Still Silver’. A song typical of Merle, it laments the passing of an era, that of the train is another he is most partial to. 

Two songs on the record are covers, Leona Williams’ ‘Texas Fiddle Song’ that owes much of it’s melody to ‘Old Joe Clark’ and ‘Cotton-Eyed Joe’ as fiddle, piano, bass and lead guitar help out Merle plus, there is golden oldie (Waylon Jennings, Johnny & Jack, Susan Raye and Donny King all charted with it) ‘Stop The World And Let Me Off’ that enjoys horns. One of the most interesting tracks is Merle’s co-write with Freddy Powers, ‘I Always Get Lucky With You’ that two years late saw George Jones top the American country singles with it. A nice enough song but it tends to drag along —more in keeping with his jazz come swing influences. Only there isn't much of a swing to it. 

 

‘Going Where  The Lonely Go’ starts off in sombre mood as he speaks of rolling with the flow on the chart-topping title track and drinking on ‘Why Am I Drinkin’. Not the most inspiring fare, but the songs mirrored Merle’s personal life and his state of mind of the time. Among my favourites you have ‘Shopping For Dresses’ and his versions of Willie Nelson's ‘Half A Man’ and Jimmie Davis’ ‘Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine’ to go with easily his best vocal performance ‘For All I Know’. For this is classic Haggard song, the vocal intonations and gentle swing make it irresistible.  

All in all the collection is a couple of notches above average (for him) but below vintage Haggard despite some excellent tracks on Big City. For apart those noted you also have railroad song ‘Good Old American Guest’ (that features Tiny Moore on electric mandolin, Mark Yeary, piano and Leona Williams on harmony vocals) and the likewise, entertaining ‘I Think I’m Gonna Like Forever’. Classic Haggard!   

 

                                                     Maurice Hope

 

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May 2018

1
John Prine
67 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
JJC,MB,SP,RM
2
Levi Parham
58 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
CRS,JB,TK
3
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
55 pts.
Texas, etc...
DollyRocker
HDB,CVL,DHO
4
Michael McDermott
54 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
JDO,LK,BK
5
Sam Morrow
48 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
MA,JBO,HB
6
Caleb Caudle
39 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
7
Western Centuries
36 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
MF
8
Carter Sampson
34 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
9
Charley Crockett
30 pts.
Lonesome as a Shadow
Son of Davy/30 Tigers
 
10
Courtney Marie Andrews
28 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
JV
11
Ed Romanoff
27 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
 
 
Joan Baez
27 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
HD
 
Pharis and Jason Romero
27 pts.
Sweet Old Religion
Lula Records
SZ,LM
14
Gretchen Peters
24 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
KG
 
Old Crow Medicine Show
24 pts.
Volunteer
Columbia Records
GF
 
Will Stewart
24 pts.
County Seat
Cornelius Chapel Records
 
17
Ben Reel
22 pts.
Land Of Escape
B REEL Records
GC,FC
 
Birds Of Chicago
22 pts.
Love In Wartime
Signature Sounds
 
 
Emily Herring
22 pts.
Gliding
Eight 30 Records
RST,RH
20
Jenny van West
21 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
PJ,FS,JJ
 
Mary Gauthier
21 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
 
22
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
20 pts.
Years
Bloodshot Records
FCE
23
David Starr
19 pts.
South And East
Independent
HM
24
Cold Tone Harvest
18 pts.
After You
Independent
 
25
Grant Peeples
17 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2
Continental

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