With Working in Tennessee, Merle Haggard adds yet another solid volume to his already legendary arsenal of albums. Mainstream radio’s love affair with Merle may be over, but it doesn’t mean the fountain isn’t still flowing. When that vintage voice comes cracking out of that sideways cowboy smile, it still hits you like a precious memory.
Working in Tennessee is a family affair, with Merle’s wife Theresa lending a songwriting hand on a few songs and singing along on the classic “Jackson”. His daughter Jenessa helps out with songwriting too, and son Ben (or Binion as I prefer) and brother-in-life Willie Nelson unite to put a new coat of paint on Merle’s classic “Working Man Blues.”
Merle’s recent love affair with the Western Swing approach is apparent in the “Working In Tennessee” title track that gives a friendly ribbing to Music City, and in a remake of a song Johnny Cash made famous called “Cocaine Blues”. Merle also takes on the influence of rock into country while paying tribute to his contemporaries and heroes in “Too Much Boogie Woogie”. What’s also apparent is the 74-year-old isn’t slowing down. Throat cancer and tough times roll off his brow like a bead of sweat as he just keeps churning out new original offerings like the excellent “Under The Bridge” or the fun “Truck Driver’s Blues”.
The album can be heard in its entirety below, and if you like what you hear, make sure to throw Ol’ Merle a few bones for the effort.