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Noel Haggard

One Lifetime – 1997 (Atlantic)

Reviewed by Chuck Hamilton

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CDs by Noel Haggard

In case you're wondering, yes, he is Merle's son. And, although he's inherited his dad's chiseled features, it's not clear (from this album at least) whether or not the musical talent's been passed down. Out of 10 tracks, a few rise above the ordinary, but too many times Haggard appears bored, singing without feeling or conviction, understandable considering some of the hot new country tunes he was given to work with. One of the worst offenders, "You Ain't In It," shows what happens when songwriters try too hard to pen a catchy phrase. ("Once in a while I live through a minute, and you ain't in it." Close guys, but no cigar.")

Some cuts work better than others. "Palm of My Hand" and "Tell Me Something Bad About Tulsa" are pleasant, well written ballads, whose authors obviously didn't do their shopping at "Cliche City." "Left, Leavin', Goin', or Gone" is a nice uptempo honky tonker, a sub-genre of country that belongs on the government's endangered species list.

But even on the best songs, Haggard seems to be struggling to find his voice. One can sympathize; his old man's a hard act to follow. Comparisons to Merle will be inevitable. But maybe he should take a page from Hank Jr.'s book: don't try to be a carbon copy of your dad, just do your thing and let the chips fall.