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Merle Haggard

Chicago Wind – 2005 (Capitol)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Merle Haggard

Anybody that still thinks Merle Haggard is the conservative reactionary reflected in his old "Okie From Muskogee" song obviously hasn't heard The Hag's new CD. For instance, "Where's All The Freedom," with its pro-civil liberties message, could easily be the ACLU theme song, and - even with a Republican president in the White House - "Rebuild America First" sure finds Merle unhappy about our ongoing war in Iraq.

Haggard has never been hesitant about mixing social commentary with his country music. But there's more than just political lyrical content here. The track "What I've Been Trying To Say" struggles with communicating well in relationships, while "Some Of Us Fly," a duet with Toby Keith, details life's everyday ups and downs. With "White Man Singin' The Blues," Haggard states what many of us have long believed: that great country music is right up there with great blues. Not everything flies here, however, as Haggard's south of the border ode in "Mexico" falls flat - even with its brass section coloring.

The disc marks The Hag's return to Capitol, the label where he once recorded some of his best material. And without a doubt, he hasn't lost his touch yet.