Entertainment Weekly - 6/24/94 - 7/1/94, p.103
7/1/94, p.103) - "...Haggard shows the kind of spunk that suggests it'll take a long dry spell to count this Okie out..." - Rating: B
Personnel: Merle Haggard (vocals); Larry Byrom (acoustic guitar); Dann Huff, Joe Manuel (electric guitar); Sonny Garrish (steel guitar, dobro); Joe Spivey, Glen Duncan (fiddle); Gary Smith (piano); Lee Sklar (bass); Owen Hale (drums); Curtis Young, Curtis Wright (background vocals).
All songs written or co-written by Merle Haggard and/or Max D. Barnes except "Valentine" (Willie Nelson).
Some men might turn complacent after thirty-one years at the top of their field. Not Merle Haggard. 1994, Haggard's first effort for Curb Records, shows Haggard to be the same ornery, melancholy iconoclast he was when he cut his first single for Tally Records in 1963. The setting may be a little slicker and the drums a little louder, but beyond the superficial differences, 1994 is a fine, typical Haggard effort.
1994 kicks off with two Max D. Barnes compositions, "I Am An Island" and "In My Next Life." These numbers are 1994's most lavishly produced, and the fact that neither managed to crack country radio playlists has less to do with the tracks' quality than with country radio's current distaste for the genre's older artists. "Way Back In The Mountains," the album's best song, follows in the footsteps of Haggard's 1982 hit "Big City," rejecting city life and responsibilities. Haggard indulges his love of Western Swing on "What's New In New York City," covers Willie Nelson's lovely "Valentine," and goes Cajun-esque on "Bye Bye Travelin' Blues." He missteps only once, on 1994's closing line-dance-friendly reworking of the 1977 hit "Rambin' Fever."