Sunday, September 24, 2006

99. Merle Haggard - I'm A Lonesome Fugitive

Track Listing

1. I'm A Lonesome Fugitive
2. All Of Me Belongs To You
3. House Of Memories
4. Life In A Prison
5. Whatever Happened To Me
6. Drink Up And Be Somebody
7. Someone Told My Story
8. If You Want To Be My Woman
9. Mary's Mine
10. Skid Row
11. My Rough And Rowdy Ways
12. Mixed Up Mess Of A Heart


A country album finally. We haven't had many of these and this one is actualy a worthy one. Not really that impressive musically, it sounds a bit like most other country albums but lyrically it really deserves its presence here. Haggard goes back to the earlier tradition of people like the Louvin' Brothers with hard hitting family unfriendly lyrics.

And in lyrical terms this is a pretty impressive and unexpected album, Haggard is a great and a disturbed writer. He heard Johnny Cash in San Quentin in 1958, but unlike Cash he was actually doing time there. This album is very much touched by his prison experience and his criminal past.

To me this is what makes a country album good, a certain rawness and sincerity mixed with pain and murderous feelings. However the album isn't that impressive musically. While Haggard certainly has a great voice which is perfect for his themes, the musical accompaniment is a bit run of the mill. So it really isn't the best Country album that you'll ever hear, but it is certainly an interesting one and worth a listen. You can stream it from Napster or buy it from Amazon UK or US.

Track Highlights

1. Life In Prison
2. I'm A Lonesome Fugitive
3. Drink Up And Be Somebody
4. If You Want To Be My Woman

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Haggard's parents moved from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression; at that time, much of the population of Bakersfield was made up of economic refugees from Oklahoma and surrounding states. Haggard's father died when Merle was 9, and Merle began to rebel against his mother. Authorities put him in a juvenile detention center. Haggard's older brother gave him a guitar when Merle was 12, and he taught himself to play. In 1951, Haggard ran away to Texas with a friend but returned that same year and was arrested for truancy and petty larceny. He ran away from the next juvenile detention center to which he was sent and went to Modesto, California. He worked odd jobs - legal and not - and made his performing debut at a bar. Once he was found again, he was sent to the Preston School of Industry, a high-security installation. Shortly after he was released, 15 months later, Haggard was sent back after beating a local boy during a burglary attempt.

After his second release, Haggard saw Lefty Frizzell in concert with his friend Bob Teague and sang a couple of songs for him. Lefty was so impressed, he allowed Haggard to sing at the concert. The audience loved Haggard, and he began working on a full-time music career. After earning a local reputation, Haggard's money problems caught up with him, and he was arrested for a robbery in 1957. He was sent to prison in San Quentin for 15 years. Even in prison, Haggard was wild. He planned an escape but never followed through, and he ran a gambling and brewing racket from his cell. Merle attended three of Johnny Cash's concerts at San Quentin. Cash inspired Haggard to straighten up and pursue his singing. Several years later, at another Cash concert, Haggard came up to Johnny and told him "I certainly enjoyed your show at San Quentin." Cash said "Merle, I don't remember you bein' in that show." Merle Haggard said, "Johnny, I wasn't in that show, I was in the audience." While put in solitary confinement on death row, Haggard encountered author and death row inmate Caryl Chessman. Haggard had the opportunity to escape with a fellow inmate nicknamed "Rabbit". Haggard passed on the chance to escape. The escape was successful. The man who escaped later shot a policeman and was returned to San Quentin and put to death. Chessman's predicament along with Rabbit's inspired Haggard to turn his life around, and he soon earned his high school equivalency diploma, kept a steady job in the prison's textile plant and played in the prison's band. He was released in 1960 and in March 1972 was pardoned by then California governor Ronald Reagan. Once released, Haggard said it took about four months to get used to being out of the penitentiary and that, at times, he actually wanted to go back in. He said it was the loneliest feeling he'd ever had.

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