Merle Haggard, Hag/ Someday We’ll Look Back

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Hag/ Someday We'll Look Back

Merle Haggard

Here's the most powerful one-two punch from Haggard's post-"Okie" career. Following the furor raised by his right-wing anthems "Okie" and "Fightin' Side of Me," Haggard became more determined to remain his own man. On Hag, the music is more eclectic than ever, and so's the stance of the mostly-original songs, which are brooding and humble rather than self-pitying or paranoid. Someday We'll Look Back backs introspective songs with richly textured music, somehow harder country and universally pop simultaneously. Beauties like "California Cottonfields" and "Tulare Dust" look back at his past with mixed emotions, "Carolyn" resonates like more than a simple cheating song, "Big Time Annie's Square" offers a self-mocking rapprochement with hippies, the title song finds hope and love in hardship, and "I'd Rather Be Gone" faces tough truths without bitterness or recrimination. Though made up of loose songs gathered from several sessions, this cohesive album represents Haggard without masks.