Personnel includes: Merle Haggard, Jeff Carson, Johnny Paycheck.
Producers: James Stroud, Chuck Howard, Merle Haggard, Mary Yeary, Abe Manuel Jr.
Declining record sales and the rise of the "fresh country" (read: Shania Twain) radio format in the '90s may have deflated Merle Haggard's spirits, but this set makes clear that his songwriting skills remained undiminished. Here, he experiences the loss of a wife in small, significant ways in the tight "Chores" and trades on the same populist appeal of "Okie From Muskogee" with "Me and Crippled Soldiers," a classic Haggard blue-collar anthem against flag burning.
"When It Rains It Pours" is a timbale-laced foray into Jimmy Buffet territory that reveals Haggard chafing against his hitless status, but with "Blue Jungle" and "Sometimes I Dream" ("seldom I laugh / and seldom I ever cry / but there's times when I drink too much / and there's times when I lie" [lines that are classic Haggard]), he's back on his own turf. MERLE HAGGARD: BEST OF THE '90s is less a chronicle of the man's hits during that decade than of his absence from country's radar screen, and the loss it caused for fans and the country-music genre.