Merle Haggard

The Bluegrass Sessions – 2007 (McCoury Music)

Reviewed by Dr. Bobby Jones

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A current trend sees country stars dabbling in bluegrass, sometimes to mixed results. Not so with The Hag. The bluegrass is country influenced, but as one would anticipate from Merle Haggard, it is still genuine.

This is not flashy, show-off music. Instead it is a more relaxed pace blending the diverse styles of bluegrass, country and Jimmy Rodgers blues. In just a line there ain't no doubt - the gravelly voice seasoned by a lot of hard living hasn't lost one bit of emotion or the power to captivate the listener.

Haggard chose his musicians carefully. All the bluegrass players are veteran road warriors and studio sidemen. Marty Stuart is perfect on bluegrass/country mandolin. The harmony vocal style is classic country music, but legends Carl Jackson and Alison Krauss ("Mama's Hungry Eyes") inject an authentic bluegrass influence.

Every once in a while some bluegrassers complain that famous country stars are just taking advantage of the genre. Haggard, like most playing bluegrass, ain't in it for the money. If you like real country or true bluegrass, this CD is a keeper.