“I Am What I Am” – Merle Haggard – A Review
Merle Haggard’s newest CD in 5 years is a refreshing acoustic affair with a touch of pedal steel and some electric pickin’. I had to fight to get a finished copy, but it was well worth the fight. Haggard is a smart man sticking with what is tried and true. His band, The Strangers accompany him, in his studio, the California “Shade Tree Manor Studio”. Reggie Young helps out on guitar, with Rob Ickes on Dobro.
Every song is a Hag written affair, except for one. Some of the songs have a swing/jazz feel to them. The whole vibe of the album is informal. Haggard sounds refreshed in this take. Reggie Youngs twangy guitar adds alot to the mix. Lots of great guitar including Haggard. Haggard’s wife writes a very inspired piece in the small insert, plus adding some sweet vocals on the CD. “Live and Love Always” features husband and wife singing together, while Merle talks in the background.
What makes an album great, Great Musicians mostly. That is what we have here. Whether it’s Haggard’s great vocals or Ickes’ Dobro in the background, this is a great album. You won’t find a better recording, unless this was put in the SACD format. This is available on CD or vinyl, if you download stuff, you can probably do it that way too. I just love “How did you Find me Here?”, great bluesy sounding song , Haggard has a great way of putting hooks in his songs and as a producer, he knows where to emphasize what, He really sounds like he is Having fun. By the Way, Merle is on a new Label, This is his first record for Vanguard Records.
In closing, this is a great find in today’s market, a real icon, playing iconic music. He still has it. I love the artwork, Just a simple picture of The Hag with his Hat. OK, drum roll, my two favorite songs are the first song, “I’ve Seen It All Go Away” and the last song which is the title track “I Am what I am”. The opener is a brilliant song about Hag’s experience with life, a bit political, a it about his experience, just a great song. He really gets into it. Sometimes , He sounds a bit like The man in Black. Who better, to do it, but Merle Haggard. Well, enjoy, it turned out to be worth the wait!!!