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Published on November 3rd, 2011 | by Sam

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Review: Merle Haggard “Working in Tennessee”

Merle Haggard Working in Tennessee  

Merle Haggard’s most recent release Working in Tennessee is in the Ernest Tubb/Bob Wills vibe.. Results on the album are mixed however, with some great moments and some pretty subpar moments. The highlights are really great, but the lowlights bog the album down.

The albums starts in the western swing vein with the title track. From a guitar point of view, this track cooks. The vocal performance sounds great as well. Haggard’s take on some of the country standards, like “Cocaine Blues” and “Jackson” stand out on the album. “Cocaine Blues” is much more laid back than the Johnny Cash version that made the song a standard, but still conveys to the listener the hopeless feeling of ‘life in prison without parole.’ His take on “Jackson” has some mixed vocal performance by wife, Theresa Haggard.

He rerecords his own hit, “Workin’ Man Blues” with some inspired guitar playing by Willie Nelson. It may be a little more laid back than the original, but sounds great nonetheless.

“Too Much Boogie” and “Laugh it Off” have some great moments too from Reggie Young. While the lyrics may come from tired subject material, the musicians turn in some great performances here.

The balance comes with songs like “Down on the Houseboat” which sounds like re-warmed, mid career Jimmy Buffett.

Working in Tennessee definitely delivers some great moments. Overall I would have to say it’s an up and down record, with great playing and singing, but some pretty subpar tracks as well. Reggie Young gives us some really good solos to check out, and Willie Nelson probably plays the best solo on the album.

3.5/5

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