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Johnny Paycheck

Mr. Hag Told My Story – 1998 (Koch)

Reviewed by George Hauenstein

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CDs by Johnny Paycheck

This is one of the all-time, unheralded country classics. Newly re-issued, this 1981 album features Johnny Paycheck, then at the top of the charts, paying tribute to the songwriting talents of Merle Haggard.

Using narration and music, Paycheck calls Haggard a "master painter whose songs paint a perfect picture of life itself." Whether the emotion is loneliness, "I've Got a Yearning," "Turnin' off a Memory," or love gone wrong, "You Don't Have Very Far To Go," or the pain of regret, "Yesterday's News Just Hit Home Today," Paycheck shows how Haggard's songs can really hit home and speak directly to you.

This isn't a cover of Haggards' greatest hits. In fact, you may only be familiar with a few of the tunes included here. Songs like "Carolyn," "I'll Leave the Bottle On the Bar," and "All Night Lady" are among the best of Hag's lesser-known material.

Haggard joins in on some cuts, but this is truly Paycheck at his best. His affection for Haggard's songs comes through as genuine. It's a concept album that works on all levels. The music and the production are top-notch. A real winner.