Merle Haggard, RIP. In Memoriam. Merle Haggard, an icon of American music, died at his home in California on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. It was the singer, songwriter, and musician’s 79th birthday. In 2008 he battled lung cancer, and was hospitalized in December 2015 with double pneumonia. Haggard returned to the stage soon after, but was sidelined again in February due to continuing health concerns. “A week ago Dad told us he was gonna pass on his birthday,” Merle’s son and lead guitarist, Ben, revealed the day his father died, “and he wasn’t wrong.”
Twelve years after they released their first Merle Haggard box, The Untamed Hawk, Bear Family delivered the sequel, Hag: The Studio Recordings 1969-1976. This picks up where The Untamed Hawk left off, which is more of a musical dividing point than it initially seems. If The Untamed Hawk caught Haggard as he was reaching full flight, Hag captures him in his prime, as every single he released reached the Country Top Ten – often capturing the number one slot – and as he sometimes crossed over into the pop Top 40. Hag was without a doubt the biggest star in country music but the remarkable thing about his reign at the top was that he never played it safe.
Reissue with the latest remastering. Features original cover artwork. Comes with a descripton in Japanese. There's a lot of great chromatic elements going on here – thanks to the work of John Scofield on guitar, who's at that key point where he could effortlessly balance melody and tone with these edges that are sharp, but also very spacious – kind of a wide style that really reaches out and wraps up the rest of the players in the group! Not that the record's one of John's as a leader, because the real driving force here is David Liebman on tenor and soprano sax – but he also seems to let Scofield set the tone at many times – which opens up work from the rest of the players, who include Terumasa Hino on trumpet, Ron McClure on bass, and Adam Nussbaum on drums. This approach makes the record a lot less arch than some of Liebman's other material from the time – and titles include "Reunion", "Moontide", "Move On Some", "Autumn In New York", "If They Only Knew", and "Capitstrano".