- Released: September 25, 2001
- Originally Released: 2001
- Label: EMI Special Products
- 1.I'll Always Know
- 2.High On A Hilltop
- 3.Love And Honor
- 4.It Meant Goodbye To Me When You Said Hello To Him
- 5.It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad)
- 6.Because You Can't Be Mine
- 7.I Came So Close To Living Alone
- 8.I'll Look Over You
- 10.My Ramona
All tracks have been digitally remastered.
Perhaps taking a cue from Columbia's theme-centered 2000 series of Johnny Cash compilations (GOD, MURDER, LOVE), Capitol gave Merle Haggard's work a similar treatment in 2001. Like Cash, Haggard was always regarded as a poet of the working class, and the four volumes of this series (HURTIN', DRINKIN', CHEATIN', and PRISON) reflect the proletarian ethos the hard-living Haggard knows so much about. The fact that his Capitol tenure encapsulated Haggard's most commercially and aesthetically successful recording years means that much more impact for this quartet of honky-tonk treasures.
CHEATIN' hones in on that most basic of country music song subjects, infidelity. The pure, unadulterated bitterness that drips from each of these ten songs is typified by the first line of the first song "I'll Always Know;" "revenge must be the reason why forgiveness was a thing I never knew." Merle's hard-hitting musical approach was always matched by his willingness to tackle unpleasant subjects with clear-eyed commitment, so he's fully qualified to dig into the scornful emotions of the cuckold's tale "Love and Honor" and the existential justifications of "It's Not Love (But it's Not Bad)"'s desperate circumstances. "My Ramona" caps off the album with its too-defensive narrator staving off inevitable romantic disappointment and making veiled threats, adding a darker tinge to CHEATIN's already grim color scheme.