Merle Haggard I Am What I Am
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- Released: April 20, 2010
- Label: Vanguard Records
Rolling Stone - p.1024 stars out of 5 -- "Haggard breezes through ersatz-mariachi tunes and delivers cutting love songs -- check out 'Stranger in the City,' about a road-warrior musician who refuses to cheat."
Spin4.5 stars out of 5 -- "His lead guitar forever flinty, his baritone beautifully distressed, the man has made a masterpiece."
Billboard (p.29) - "He's gone from the angry 'Okie From Muskogee' to a weathered everyman poet with a Western twang and a California kind of country swing that puts melodic heft behind musings on the human condition."
Mojo (Publisher) - p.944 stars out of 5 -- "[He] still shuffles the deck like no other, dispensing country waltzes, chuckling his way through trumpet-lick-flavoured jazz shuffles and delivering romantic ditties that bring a genuine tear to the eye..."
Uncut (magazine) - p.984 stars out of 5 -- "Haggard himself sounds finely weathered, his voice now freighted with the same shrewd wisdom and Kristofferson or Levon Helm."
- 1.I've Seen It Go Away
- 2.Pretty When It's New
- 3.Oil Tanker Train
- 4.Live and Love Always
- 5.The Road To My Heart
- 6.How Did You Find Me Here
- 7.We're Falling In Love Again
- 8.Bad Actor
- 9.Down At the End of the Road
- 10.A Stranger In the City
- 11.Mexican Band
- 12.I Am What I Am
Liner Note Author: Theresa Lane Haggard.
Recording information: Hag's Studio.
Photographer: Travis Huggett.
Perhaps there's a measure of defiance in the title of Merle Haggard's 2010 album I Am What I Am, but it's also a statement of plain fact: almost 50 years into a recording career, there's no changing the fact that Hag is who is he is, and he's comfortable in his own skin, broken-in but not worn-out, never pushing too hard but never coasting, either. Sometimes Haggard's easy touch is too light, slipping into sleepiness, but the striking thing about I Am What I Am is its casual mastery, the subtle shading in his vocal phrasing can make his songwriting appear effortless. And to an extent, it is: Hag's tending the same fields he has for years, sliding into swaying ballads, stepping it up for a bit of Western swing, tipping his hat toward Mexico, swinging through some Dixieland jazz, a love of railroads and family, spiking his sentimental, nostalgic streak with clear-eyed realism, always blurring the line between a late night in a beer joint and a Sunday afternoon picking on the porch. But like with any of Haggard's great albums, much of the pleasure lies in the details, whether it's the sly lyrical turns of phrase in his writing or in the suppleness of his performance, things I Am What I Am has in spades. It's familiar enough to feel comforting on the first listen, resonant enough to sound better with each subsequent spin; it's so true to Haggard's essence that it could stand handsomely as his final album, an understated summation of where he's been, but it's made better by having no trace of self-conscious finality -- this wasn't constructed as a last word, but it's just a reflection of who Haggard is, which is nothing less than one of the great American singer/songwriters. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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