Merle Haggard, I’m A Lonesome Fugitive/ Branded Man

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

I'm A Lonesome Fugitive/ Branded Man

Merle Haggard
Convincing Merle he could sing about darker aspects of his life than booze and romance

The title hits of these two albums are two of the greatest prison songs ever. Their success ("The Fugitive," as the song was originally titled, was his first No. 1, though he didn't write it) also helped convince Merle he could sing about darker aspects of his life other than boozing and romantic turmoil. And it was the first single on which acoustic guitar underpinnings, which quickly became a trademark, were crucial. Finally, "My Rough and Rowdy Ways" marks his first Jimmie Rodgers revival (he'd soon cut a double-album tribute). Haggard wrote or co-wrote nine of the 12 songs, including the haunting "House of Memories." Branded Man, meanwhile, features three Tommy Collins originals (including "Go Home," Merle's first foray into interracial love songs) and Hag's own "I Threw Away the Rose," which quickly became a calling card. Crackling guitarist Roy Nichols, who was absent on the former album (replaced by James Burton and Glen Campbell, no less), returns for the latter.