Down Every Road album cover

Merle Haggard, Down Every Road

Capitol, 1996, country

B, 1966: ‘Dear Rolling Stone 500 Editor, A four disk set? Really?’ But I will admit, some very fine country tunes here from back when ‘country’ was really country. Haggard was a prolific songwriter. My highlight: “The Bottle Let Me Down”, which to me is just classic country.

C, 2002: A lot of Merle but I enjoyed it. Good songs and the album actually goes by pretty fast. Was happy when intently listening or even when just having it in background.

H, 1951: This is a collection, and it’s an awful lot of Merle – something like 100 songs. If your taste for country has been ruined by contemporary “artists,” then you should listen to the words Darrell Scott wrote circa 2002:

We listen to the radio to hear what’s cooking’,
But the music ain’t got no soul.
Now they sound tired but they don’t sound Haggard,
They’ve got money but they don’t have Cash,
They got Junior but they don’t have Hank,
And I think, I think, I think, the rest is:
A Long Time Gone.

Haggard’s body of work represents an essential floor in that edifice known as the American Tower of Song, and it’s the real deal. Entire bands in the sixties and seventies – Commander Cody, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and others – just moved into the edifice that Merle built, and never really left, and it’s hard to listen to any modern music that might fit into the Americana mold without hearing some of these songs, and a whole bunch of Merle’s influence.

There’s also a whole lot of American history here, told in song. If modern America seems a mystery to you, then there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle buried in these grooves.

(Those who are paying close attention may note that this collection includes the Jimmie Rodgers song “Waitin’ for a Train,” also featured on the Boz Scaggs album listed at # 496.)

Published 19 Sep 2019

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