Merle Haggard

The Peer Sessions – 2002 (Audium)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

Recorded in the late '90s after having left Curb Records, Merle Haggard's latest finds him paying tribute to the Ralph Peer publishing catalog (generally referred to as peermusic in the liner notes).

A one-off release for Haggard through Audium, this is a worthwhile companion to last year's "Roots, Vol. 1," with the singer paying tribute again to the artists who inspired him as a young man; nostalgia being a common theme in several of his releases over the past few years. No one's ever had to twist Merle Haggard's arm to get him to play a Jimmie Rodgers song, and this is no exception, with 4 of the 12 songs either written by or associated with Rodgers. Another 4 numbers are penned by Gov. Jimmie Davis, who also duets (at the age of 97 and sounding surprisingly spry) with Haggard on "Hang On to the Memories." The remaining selection includes versions of Floyd Tillman's "I Love You So Much It Hurts" and the Tommy Duncan-penned Bob Wills perennial "Time Changes Everything," among others.

Haggard is in fine form throughout, if perhaps more subdued than on his previous recordings of some of these same songs; the sound of an artist singing for himself after all of the customers have gone home and the staff is sweeping up.