Merle Haggard, Sing Me Back Home/The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 01.10.12 in Reviews

Merle Haggard
Among his most heartbreaking songs

“Sing Me Back Home” still ranks among Haggard’s most heartbreaking songs; it’s also, despite its surface simplicity, one of his most complex of the ’60s. The growing depth of his writing — and his singing — is equally apparent on “Look Over Me” and “My Past Is Present,” while his choices of outside material, from the brilliant “If You See My Baby” to the gothic “Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp,” are acute. The bluegrassy “Legend of Bonnie and Clyde,” inspired by the Faye Dunaway-Warren Beatty movie, represents the increasing folk flavors of his work, while that single’s B-side ballad, “I Started Loving You Again,” has become one of his signature songs though it’s never been a hit. That album’s filled out mostly by outside material, but the choices here are more unlikely, and their relative obscurity reinforces the notion of Haggard as archivist.