Personnel includes: Merle Haggard, Tony Toliver.
Producers: James Stroud, Mary Yeary, Merle Haggard, Abe Manuel, Jr.
Photographer: Keith Carter.
The second volume of this Curb Records '90s retrospective features both some minor gems ("Troubador"), and some fairly maudlin cuts ("In My Next Life"), but in the main what's on offer here is a welcome series of vignettes and observations from 30 years of Haggard's life. "A Bar in Bakersfield" and "Bye, Bye Travelin' Blues" bookend his career, the former a might-have-been document of his early years playing in his home town, the latter a reality-based ditty about the vagaries of the road.
He goes from traditional barroom songs like "Swingin' Doors" to a potentially saccharine song about a little homeless girl ("My Home Is in the Street") and brings the same sense of authenticity and compassion to both of them; indeed, there's a directness in the best of Haggard's writing that echoes Hank Williams'. This directness probably helped play no small part in Haggard's Williams-like success, as Merle scored 71 Top-10 hits, 38 of which reached Number One. Armed with one of country music's sweetest, most recognizable voices and a dogged stubbornness in the face of adversity, it's little surprise that Merle's career has lasted as long as it has.