Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard

Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard

by Merle HaggardMerle Haggard


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Continuing its 2006 celebration of Merle Haggard's daunting musical legacy, Capitol Nashville adds a well-considered 26-tune collection that lives up to its billing, as long as everyone agrees that any Hag best-of would have to be a multiple volume set. This disc aspires to be a real overview, supplementing the expected classics Hag cut for Capitol from the mid-'60s to the mid-'70s with selected cuts from other labels. So in addition to stirring Bakersfield Sound bounty such as "Sing Me Back Home," "Mama Tried," "Hungry Eyes," "Workin' Man Blues," "If We Make It Through December," et al., the tune stack includes the quintessential treatment of Townes Van Zandt's "Pancho and Lefty," cut with Willie Nelson for Epic in 1982; a rough-hewn duet with Johnny Cash from 2000 on "I'm Leaving Now"; the laid-back "Runaway Mama" from the 2001 tour de force Roots, Volume 1 on the Anti label; and 2005's lilting, atmospheric heartbreaker, "She Ain't Hooked On Me No More," a tough-minded but soft-hearted duet lament with Toby Keith. That's almost 40 years of music, and it's a measure of Hag's commitment to his art that the later tracks find him digging as deeply into his emotional well as do the monuments that established his legend.

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