CD Review: Merle Haggard

Working in Tennessee (Vanguard)

At this point in his career, Merle Haggard has nothing to prove. The country legend has seen it all, from prison to drug addiction to more career ups and downs than a dozen pop stars combined. So if his latest album sounds like it was recorded in 35 minutes, there's a pretty good chance that it was. But the 74-year-old singer settles into Working in Tennessee's songs like they're an old pair of boots, finding comfort and dependability tucked in the corners. Besides a pair of Johnny Cash covers, Haggard wrote all the songs himself, including a remake of his 1969 hit "Workin' Man Blues," with longtime pal Willie Nelson and son Ben Haggard helping out. The easygoing grooves — guided by old-timey fiddle, shuffling drums, and swing guitar — are in no hurry to get anywhere. It's a contagious vibe. — Michael Gallucci

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