Mama Tried

Apologies that things have been pretty quiet around these parts! My time has been consumed with training Teaching Assistants and denying the impending arrival of my 25th year of school. In the mean time, I saw Merle Haggard last night at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. As part of their Concerts in the Garden series, this was an outdoor show, and the whole things was quite lovely. Atlanta isn’t my favorite city, but the show last night was a fantastic experience. The Botanical Garden is just gorgeous; it wasn’t all that hot (well, you know for a Georgia evening in August); and, of course, it was Merle Haggard.

The crowd was fairly sedate for most of the night, although I’m guessing this had more to do with the humidity than our collective enthusiasm for Merle. The opening act was a guy named Chris Janson, a singer/songwriter who is now likely seeing a significant increase in his income, as he wrote the ridiculous current radio hit “Truck Yeah” (as performed by Tim McGraw). Janson was followed by Merle’s oldest son, who sang a couple of songs with the Strangers.

The venue was lovely, but the sound was lacking (especially unfortunate, considering how good the Strangers are). Granted, Merle’s voice isn’t the strongest and/or most consistent these days, but for his first few songs, it was barely audible. Also, it was difficult to hear all of the instruments most of the time, unless there was a solo, then that instrument was REALLY loud. And as someone who now thinks about production (in a different context, but it’s on the radar nonetheless), the lighting was pretty basic. Considering how many LEDs were available, the stage was primarily green (maybe that’s the Botanical Garden’s rule) with an occasional purple, and maybe one red scene. During solos, it generally took at least a measure or two before the spot found the player; perhaps this is why the sound guy turned up the solo so loudly… But these are just picky things (OK, the sound at a live show is actually reallyreallyreally important, but I’m moving on), the main thing was that it was MERLE HAGGARD, and he, of course, played tons of his amazing songs (so many country classics!), along with a cover of “Folsom Prisom Blues.” I was especially impressed with how he can still Play the Guitar. He played a ton of the lead licks and took a surprising number of solos (his youngest son is the current electric player for the band).

During the show, I remembered my first big arena concert experience. When I was a kid, my family went to Rupp Arena to see Lee Greenwood, the Judds, and Merle Haggard. I’m pretty sure we were there primarily to see the Judds, and as I recall, we left during Merle’s set, as things were getting rowdy (and drunk, I would imagine). In any event, here’s to my Mama (and Daddy) for a respectable “first show” story!


Guitar Slide Wednesday: The Hag version, part 2

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has a new exhibit called “The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country.” Since I’m in Nashville this week, I spent the afternoon at the Museum to check it out (they have a fantastic Chet Atkins exhibit there now, too). I loved the exhibit, and not just because of all of the old pictures of Merle Haggard…

I have mentioned elsewhere that I just love ca. 1960s/early 1970s Merle Haggard, and here are a few pics I took today:

And even though, I’m late getting to it, it’s still Guitar Slide Wednesday, so here’s a fantastic video of Merle Haggard and the Strangers live on a show called Country Music Holiday from 1968. Even though there aren’t any guitar slides of note, the song features a pedal steel and some nice lead guitar licks.


Guitar Slide Wednesday: The Hag version

I would like to confess two things in this post:

1. I have a crush on young Merle Haggard, ca. 1960s/early 1970s.

2. My favorite version of the Merle Haggard song featured today is actually not by Merle Haggard. I confess that I like Whiskeytown’s cover of The Knitters cover of this song best.* In fact that version is one of my most favoritest songs to listen to. Ever.

I think the original is great, but the Whiskeytown version has a great guitar slide in it, along with some lovely ethereal pedal steel playing. However, I couldn’t find a video of it and am too lazy to make one currently. So we get the original, which I suppose is good and proper, except that it doesn’t actually have any guitar slides to speak of.

*Whiskeytown recorded this song on The Knitters tribute album, Poor Little Knitter on the Roadreleased by Bloodshot Records in 1999, which duplicated all of the tracks of The Knitters album, Poor Little Critter on the Road (1985). The Knitters were a country-ish side project of punk band X, featuring John Doe and Exene Cervenka.