CD Review: Merle Haggard 

I Am What I Am (Vanguard)

Merle Haggard has been releasing albums regularly since his comeback record If I Could Only Fly a decade ago, but most of them aren't worth hearing. I Am What I Am, the country legend's most motivated and personal recording in years, features a dozen songs that reflect on a lifetime of memories. The 73-year-old singer sounds inspired again, after almost ten years of mostly ho-hum albums that either tried to cash in on his legacy or disregarded it altogether. Opener "I've Seen It Go Away" contemplates the way things used to be, but Haggard doesn't play it for complete nostalgia. He's in a philosophical mood, which he carries throughout I Am What I Am. The mid-tempo shuffles reflect on love ("Pretty When It's New"), youth ("Oil Tanker Train"), and home ("Down at the End of the Road"), with Hag's craggy but still solid voice guiding the way. If I Could Only Fly was an album packed with regrets; I Am What I Am makes no apologies. — Michael Gallucci


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