Amazon Studios to Create Merle Haggard Biopic

Sam Rockwell, Merle Haggard
Courtesy of Michael Schwartz; AP reports that Amazon Studios has acquired the rights to create a Merle Haggard biopic. Top of the list to play The Hag s Oscar-winning actor Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Blaze) and that he will do his own singing of Haggard’s perennial standards

Robin Bissell will direct the film and will write the script with Merle’s widow, Theresa Haggard, based on the Haggard memoir Sing Me Back Home. Bissell and Haggard will produce the film jointly.

The film covers Haggard’s subsequent struggle to escape his hard past to become a better man and legendary artist. Ashamed of his past, Haggard hid his ex-con status from all but those closest to him until finally coming clean on Johnny Cash’s TV show in 1969. The story also focuses heavily on Merle’s complicated love affair, which played out on-stage and off, with singer Bonnie Owens – his singing partner and eventual wife.

Once Haggard figured it all out, he became a symbol of the power of rehabilitation: from 1966-1970, Merle had 9 number one hits, and would record 38 number one tunes overall and 71 in the top ten. His biggest hits included Okie From Muskogee, The Fightin’ Side Of Me, Sing Me Back Home, The Fugitive, Workin’ Man Blues, Mama Tried and Today I Started Loving You Again, to name only a few. He won seven CMA awards including Entertainer of The Year in 1970. Haggard in 1972 was pardoned by Governor Ronald Reagan, and astronaut Charlie Duke took his Merle Haggard tape to the moon on Apollo 16.

‘King of the Road’ Roger Miller Tribute Recruits Alison Krauss, Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson

Roger Miller

Few people these days are aware of the gENius of Roger Miller. If he’s known at all it’s for his deceptively goofy sons like ‘Dang Me’ and Z”You Can’t Rollerskate In A Buffalo Herd.” He was also the one of the greatest songwriters to ever work the country music genre snagging 11 Grammy Awards, a Tony Award for writing the music and lyrics for the Broadway play “Big River’ and was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995. He performed, and was friends with greats like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.

Speaking of Kris Kristofferson, Miller was also the to record and commercially release his “Me and Bobby McGee” a full year before Janis Joplin made it a classic.

Now his friends and new blood that owe him a debt have come together to pay tribute. ‘King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller,’ out Aug. 31 via BMG, pays long overdue respects to one of American music’s premier entertainers and songwriters. The two-disc collection contains new renditions of Miller’s songs by Ringo Starr, Dolly Parton, Eric Church, Loretta Lynn, John Goodman and more than two dozen others, including Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard on one track. Produced by Miller’s son, Dean Miller, and Colby Barnum Wright, ‘King of the Road’ offers a fresh look at the work of a creative giant who has been gone 26 years but whose genius continues to shape contemporary music in ways both overt and subtle.

Read more about the project in a new interview at The Tennessean:

Before Miller’s premature death of cancer at age 56, the Country Music Hall of Famer had 31 Top 40 Billboard country hits (10 of which crossed over to the pop chart), including his signature songs “Dang Me” and “King of the Road.” He held the record for most GRAMMY wins in a single night until Michael Jackson and ‘Thriller’ broke it in 1984. Miller wrote songs and voiced a character for Walt Disney’s 1973 Robin Hood film. He also wrote the music and lyrics for the Tony-winning Big River, helping launch the career of actor John Goodman, who reprises the musical’s “Guv’ment” on ‘King of the Road.’ As Dean Miller writes in liner notes accompanying ‘King of the Road,’ “Roger Miller was too gigantic to be contained by genres and definitions.”

‘King of the Road’ includes versions of Miller’s biggest ’60s hits, like “Chug-A-Lug” (Asleep at the Wheel ft. Huey Lewis) and “England Swings” (Lyle Lovett), and lesser-known treasures from a catalog full of gems. As with Miller’s own output, the album contains plenty of unexpected turns — country superstar Eric Church’s playful take on Robin Hood’s “Oo De Lally,” for instance, or Starr’s selection of “Hey, Would You Hold It Down?,” a song from Miller’s long-out-of-print 1979 ‘Making a Name for Myself’ album. By any standard of measurement, Miller was “one of the greatest songwriters that ever lived” — even if he did say so himself. And he did, in the first of a handful of the album’s live-performance interstitials that capture the spontaneous wit of a mind that operated at a breakneck pace.

There is a television event in the works, more information coming soon.

The scope of material and performances on ‘King of the Road’ both capture Miller’s personality and convey an astonishing legacy that’s still felt today. “Roger Miller didn’t have to say much,” Dean writes in the liners. “You were simply drawn to him. He had a magnetic smile, and electric wit and a passion for life and music that transcended generations.”

‘King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller’ Tracklist:

Disc One
Greatest Songwriter (Banter)
Chug-a-Lug – Asleep at the Wheel ft. Huey Lewis (!)
Dang Me – Brad Paisley
Leavin’s Not the Only Way to Go – The Stellas/Lennon and Maisy
Kansas City Star – Kacey Musgraves
World So Full of Love – Rodney Crowell
Old Friends (Banter)
Old Friends – Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard
Lock Stock and Teardrops – Mandy Barnett
You Oughta Be Here With Me – Alison Krauss ft. The Cox Family
The Crossing – Ronnie Dunn, The Blind Boys of Alabama
In the Summertime – The Earls of Leicester ft. Shawn Camp
Fiddle (Banter)
England Swings – Lyle Lovett
You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd – Various Artists
Half a Mind – Loretta Lynn
Invitation to the Blues – Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter
It Only Hurts Me When I Cry (Live) – Dwight Yoakam

Disc Two
Hey, Would You Hold It Down? – Ringo Starr
Engine, Engine #9 – Emerson Hart ft. Jon Randall
When Two Worlds Collide – Flatt Lonesome
Oo De Lally – Eric Church
You Can’t Do Me This Way and Get By With It – Dean Miller ft. The McCrary Sisters
Chicken S#$! (Banter)
Nothing Can Stop Me – Toad the Wet Sprocket
Husbands and Wives – Jamey Johnson ft. Emmylou Harris
I Believe in the Sunshine – Lily Meola
Guv’ment – John Goodman
Old Songwriters Never Die (Banter)
The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me – Dolly Parton ft. Alison Krauss
I’d Come Back to Me – Radney Foster ft. Tawnya Reynolds
Reincarnation – Cake
One Dying and a Burying – The Dead South
Do Wacka Do – Robert Earl Keen, Jr.
King of the Road – Various Artists

Lost In Vegas’ Reaction Video For Merle Haggard’s ”Big City” Is Greatness

Lost In Vegas' thoughts on Merle Haggard's ''Big City''

Remember The first time you heard a Merl Haggard song? That relaxed yet steady voice. This lyrics.

Relive that moment with the guys over at the Lost In Vegas YouTube channel.

I discovered Lost In Vegas reaction videos when a friend of mine sent me a link to their reaction video to Megadeth’s ‘Holy Wars…The Punishment Due.’ They were so genuine and thoughtful in their verbal and nonverbal reactions to a truly new genre was a ‘delight to behold’ as one comment perfectly put it.

The duo follows a simple and well-worn formula: the show’s two hosts, George and Ryan, play a song that they are somewhat or completely unfamiliar with, and then react to it in real time, occasionally pausing the music to dig deeper or just yell in exclamation. It really is quote something to watch the joy two grown men have at listening to music.

I started to search out more and more of their metal reaction videos. Never disappointed.

Tonight I was riffing across YouTube I came across them not reacting to a another metal classic but working the gritty side of the fence. The guys too up the great Merle Haggard’s ‘Big City.”

Reactions like “That right there…what the hell is that? Pure unadulterated COUNTRY” at hearing the opening pedal steel to observing the timelessness of Merle’ lyrics.

Lost In Vegas aren’t you usual reaction vieson in that they are genuine lovers of music and balance just the right mix of gut-reactions to digging a little deeper to appreciate and find meaning.

Go check up out and subscribe if you dig it.

UPDATE – Also check out their reaction video for Chris Stapleton’s ‘Tennessee Whiskey.’

Merle Haggard Museum + Restaurant Set To Open in Summer of 2018

Merle Haggard Museum

It appears that Nashville will be the location for Merle Haggard’s Museum and Merle’s Meat + 3 Saloon – a Southern-style restaurant with adjacent bar. The restaurant will be operated by longtime Nashville restaurateur David Swett.

Sounds like a recipe for tourism cheese, but given the Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline Museum museum are located in the same vicinity off Nashville’s tourist-jammed Lower Broadway, it probably makes perfect business sense.

But I find it ironic that the estates of Haggard and Johnny Cash decide to locate their memorial museums in the town that eventually shunned them professionally later in their careers when they demonstrably had much more to offer. I mean, in the case of The Hag wouldn’t to make more sense to locate hs museum the city that reflected his signature music style, Bakersfield, CA?

The museum will feature performance clothing and musical instruments, along with awards and other professional and personal possessions from the Haggard, who died on his 79th birthday, April 6th, 2016.

The Merle Haggard museum and Merle’s Meat + 3 Saloon will be located at 121 Third Avenue South, with the restaurant on the ground level with the Museum on an upper floor. The projected opening for both is the summer of 2018.

In the meantime you can always visit the Hags childhood home, in Oildale, California, made from an old railcar. That seems appropriate.

Willie Nelson To Release New Album, ‘God’s Problem Child’

Willie Nelson Announces New Album 'God's Problem Child'

Willie Nelson, who appears to never rest, will release his new album, ‘God’s Problem Child.’ The collection of all-new studio material, his first in nearly three years, will be released April 28th, the day before the Texas music legend turns 84. That last album, ‘Django and Jimmie,’ was a collaboration with his longtime friend and country music pioneer Merle Haggard, who passed away in on April 6, 2016, Haggard’s 79th birthday.

On ‘God’s Problem Child’ Willie pays tribute to his friend, who Nelson first met at a poker game at Willie’s Nashville home in 1964, on the Gary Nicholson penned cut “He Won’t Ever Be Gone.”

The title cut, co-written by Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White, includes vocals by both writers as well featuring the late roots-music legend Leon Russell, one of his final recordings before his death last November.

I can’t wait to hear the entire album from this master singer/songwriter.

‘God’s Problem Child, which will be available on CD, vinyl, and digitally. As is now the norm to help spur sales bundles
are offered including the various music formats, some signed, as well as t-shirts and other premiums.

Order at Pledge Music.

‘God’s Problem Child’ track list:
1. “Little House on the Hill” (Lyndel Rhodes)
2. “Old Timer” (Donnie Fritz/Lenny LeBlanc)
3. “True Love” (Willie Nelson/Buddy Cannon)
4. “Delete and Fast Forward” (Willie Nelson/Buddy Cannon)
5. “A Woman’s Love (Mike Reid/Sam Hunter)
6. “Your Memory Has a Mind Of Its Own” (Willie Nelson/Buddy Cannon)
7. “Butterfly” (Sonny Throckmorton/Mark Sherrill)
8. “Still Not Dead” (Willie Nelson/Buddy Cannon)
9. “God’s Problem Child” (Jamey Johnson/Tony Joe White)
10. “It Gets Easier” (Willie Nelson/Buddy Cannon)
11. “Lady Luck” (Willie Nelson/Buddy Cannon)
12. “I Made a Mistake” (Willie Nelson/Buddy Cannon)
13. “He Won’t Ever Be Gone” (Gary Nicholson)

Remembering Merle Haggard 1937 – 2016

Merle Haggard 1937 - 2016

I’ve heard countless discussions around what constitutes “real country music.” These arguments contain few details of what makes up this elusive cultural archetype and people often reach for specific performers to create context.

Merle Haggard was one of those archetypes, greater than himself. He transcended from a mere country music performer to become a touchstone of what is great about the genre.

A product of a troubled childhood partially due to loss his father, James Haggard, at the age of 9. By the age of 11 he was riding the rails near his home, an abandoned refrigerated train car built by his dad. Then came a string of encounters that led to jail time, most notably when his mother turned him over to juvenile authorities for a weekend lock-up in an attempt to change his “incorrigible” attitude.

As he famously sang “Mama tried.”

A bungled burglary to rob a restaurant while they were still serving customers resulted in a two and a half year stretch at San Quentin State Prison. There he dabbled in music until Johnny Cash held one of his many prison shows for the inmates. He found his saving grace delivered by a Man In Black.

The first time I saw Haggard he was in 2009. He was co-headlining with Kris Kristofferson in Santa Rosa California. Cher wsaa in the audience that night. I’m not sure why she was there (maybe an acquaintance of Kristofferson in his hunky ‘A Star Is Born’ days) but I knew that had to mean something special.

The Hag was a lot more laid back than the ornery cuss that wrote ‘Okie From Muskogee’ and ‘ The Fightin’ Side of Me.’ No doubt due in large part to the lemon-sized tumor removed in the previous year. Perhaps is was the marijuana he used regularly after that surgery. When I last saw him in Ft. Worth’s Bass Hall in 2014 he asked the crows “How many are against pot?” To the smattering applauding in the affirmative he smiled and shot back ‘Why?”

Like his fellow Bakersfield sound” brethren Buck Owens Merle Haggard was a crafter of populist storytelling. He transcended country music to create great American standards by holding up songs like a mirror where we all saw ourselves. The good, bad and – like most of us – those in between.

The warden led a prisoner down the hallway to his doom
And I stood up to say good-bye like all the rest
And I heard him tell the warden just before he reached my cell
“Let my guitar-playing friend do my request”

That he died 79 years to the day of his birth will certainly just add to his mythology. Why not? Numerology and statistics aside it just seems like something supernatural.

But he was all too human. Fragile humanity ran through his songs and demeanor. He had passion for the genre he helped create and humility always in the way he approached it. He defined everything great about and, in turn, defined the best in us bound together by it.

Watch Out! Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard “It’s All Going To Pot” [VIDEO]

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard "It's All Going To Pot"

It’s no coincidence that Conan O’Brien’s official site held the premiered the new Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard video for “It’s All Going To Pot” on this day, 4/20. If you don’t get the title reference to this day I suggest you Google 4/20. i’ll wait…

Now that we’re up to speed, big horns kick off this uptempo ditty which plays the legendary pair’s reflection on the state of society and their choice of adult recreational activity. Recounting their days of drinking and popping pills and how it just doesn’t compare. And that whatever society and that ‘cacklehaed in the box” says, they’ll stay true to their Outlaw moniker to the end.

The cut can be found on the upcoming collaboration album ‘Django and Jimmie” to be released June 2nd. Pre-order it on Willie’s Official Online Store or Amazon.

Bob Dylan Slams , Praises at MusiCares Ceremony

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan was honored by MusiCares, the charity organization that aids musicians in need, at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday night. Though Dylan himself delined to perform
(as did Neil Young when he was so honored) artists like Willie Nelson, Beck and Bruce Springsteen covered some his timeless songs

Dylan did take a rare opportunity to deliver a heartfelt and bracingly forthright 30-plus-minute acceptance speech calling out songwriters who had criticized his work while also calling out Music City and commercial country music.

Of course if anyone at the Academy was surprised by Dylan’s frankness they haven’t been paying attention to the man’s 50 + year career.

The only omission in Dylan’s speech that gave me pause was the oversight of his old backing group, The Band. Then again as scathing as he is to some of the people in his past maybe this was a good thing.

He also heaped praise on individuals on the industry that bravely too a chance on him and musicians that coverd his songs without being sked to. Covers that made the charts and brought mainstraem recognitions, and cash, to Dylasn early on.

After his introduction by former President Jimmy Carter Dylan entered to a standing ovation. He then referred to his written notes and began, “I’m going to read some of this.”

Bob Dylan’s MusiCares person of the year acceptance speech:

I’m glad for my songs to be honored like this. But you know, they didn’t get here by themselves. It’s been a long road and it’s taken a lot of doing. These songs of mine, they’re like mystery stories, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far. They were on the fringes then, and I think they’re on the fringes now. And they sound like they’ve been on the hard ground.

I should mention a few people along the way who brought this about. I know I should mention John Hammond, great talent scout for Columbia Records. He signed me to that label when I was nobody. It took a lot of faith to do that, and he took a lot of ridicule, but he was his own man and he was courageous. And for that, I’m eternally grateful. The last person he discovered before me was Aretha Franklin, and before that Count Basie, Billie Holiday and a whole lot of other artists. All noncommercial artists.

Trends did not interest John, and I was very noncommercial but he stayed with me. He believed in my talent and that’s all that mattered. I can’t thank him enough for that. Lou Levy runs Leeds Music, and they published my earliest songs, but I didn’t stay there too long.

Levy himself, he went back a long ways. He signed me to that company and recorded my songs and I sang them into a tape recorder. He told me outright, there was no precedent for what I was doing, that I was either before my time or behind it. And if I brought him a song like “Stardust,” he’d turn it down because it would be too late.

He told me that if I was before my time — and he didn’t really know that for sure — but if it was happening and if it was true, the public would usually take three to five years to catch up — so be prepared. And that did happen. The trouble was, when the public did catch up I was already three to five years beyond that, so it kind of complicated it. But he was encouraging, and he didn’t judge me, and I’ll always remember him for that.

Artie Mogull at Witmark Music signed me next to his company, and he told me to just keep writing songs no matter what, that I might be on to something. Well, he too stood behind me, and he could never wait to see what I’d give him next. I didn’t even think of myself as a songwriter before then. I’ll always be grateful for him also for that attitude.

I also have to mention some of the early artists who recorded my songs very, very early, without having to be asked. Just something they felt about them that was right for them. I’ve got to say thank you to Peter, Paul and Mary, who I knew all separately before they ever became a group. I didn’t even think of myself as writing songs for others to sing but it was starting to happen and it couldn’t have happened to, or with, a better group.

They took a song of mine that had been recorded before that was buried on one of my records and turned it into a hit song. Not the way I would have done it — they straightened it out. But since then hundreds of people have recorded it and I don’t think that would have happened if it wasn’t for them. They definitely started something for me.

The Byrds, the Turtles, Sonny & Cher — they made some of my songs Top 10 hits but I wasn’t a pop songwriter and I really didn’t want to be that, but it was good that it happened. Their versions of songs were like commercials, but I didn’t really mind that because 50 years later my songs were being used in the commercials. So that was good too. I was glad it happened, and I was glad they’d done it.

Purvis Staples and the Staple Singers — long before they were on Stax they were on Epic and they were one of my favorite groups of all time. I met them all in ’62 or ’63. They heard my songs live and Purvis wanted to record three or four of them and he did with the Staples Singers. They were the type of artists that I wanted recording my songs.

Nina Simone. I used to cross paths with her in New York City in the Village Gate nightclub. These were the artists I looked up to. She recorded some of my songs that she [inaudible] to me. She was an overwhelming artist, piano player and singer. Very strong woman, very outspoken. That she was recording my songs validated everything that I was about.

Oh, and can’t forget Jimi Hendrix. I actually saw Jimi Hendrix perform when he was in a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames — something like that. And Jimi didn’t even sing. He was just the guitar player. He took some small songs of mine that nobody paid any attention to and pumped them up into the outer limits of the stratosphere and turned them all into classics. I have to thank Jimi, too. I wish he was here.

Asleep at the Wheel To Release ‘Still The King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys’ 3/3/2015

Still The King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys,

“I think the…Western swing, or whatever you want to call it, will slack off for a little while and then I think some of these younger boys will come out here one of these days with a golden voice and it’ll build again.”—Bob Wills

After attending the Bob Wills Festival and Fiddle contest in Greenville, TX over the winter I developed a deep love for the Western Swing genre and for it’s creator, Bob Wills.

But I’m ready for more.

Luckily early in the new year Ray Benson & Asleep at the Wheel will again honor the legendary Bob Wills with ‘Still The King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys,’ out March 3 on Bismeaux Records.

Exemplary Americana and country artists like The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Buddy Miller, Elizabeth Cook, Lyle Lovett, Shooter Jennings, Brad Paisley and George Strait join the band on new interpretations on classics on, what looks like, a release that will best the previous two Will’s tributes from the band.

For over 40 years, Ray Benson & Asleep at the Wheel have been the deft practitioners and caretakers of Western swing craft, carrying Wills’ traditions across generations and the into the 21st century.

This release will be band’s third full-length Bob Wills tribute following 1998’s ‘Ride with Bob’ and 1993’s ‘A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills,’ with four GRAMMY awards and over half a million copies sold collectively.

From the press release:

“The new album features genre-spanning collaborations with critically acclaimed artists, old friends and new favorites including Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Jamey Johnson, Merle Haggard, George Strait, The Avett Brothers, Amos Lee, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lyle Lovett, Kat Edmonson, Robert Earl Keen and Tommy Emmanuel, among many others. The album is available for pre-order via PledgeMusic and iTunes with the track “Tiger Rag,” featuring Old Crow Medicine Show, delivered in advance of the release date as an immediate download. Asleep at the Wheel will be performing at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on March 4 with spring tour dates to be announced. Watch the exclusive video teaser HERE. Please see the full track listing below.

Widely considered “The King of Western Swing,” Bob Wills (1905-1975) and his Texas Playboys performed thousands of shows across the United Sates for nearly six decades and recorded prolifically in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s. Early stars of American country music, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys were a dance band with a country string section that played pop songs as if they were jazz numbers. “After 45 years of traveling and playing, it still amazes me how well this music, born in the 1920s and ‘30s, thrives in the present day,” says Benson. “The artists playing and singing on this collection range in age from folks in their 20s to former Texas Playboys 92-year-old Billy Briggs and 86-year-old Leon Rausch…certain evidence that Western swing music is alive and well as it cruises through the next millennium.” Bob Wills was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1968, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and the National Fiddler Hall of Fame in 2007.

Based in Austin, Asleep at the Wheel formed in Paw Paw, West Virginia in 1970. Since their inception, the band has won nine GRAMMY awards, released more than 20 studio albums and charted more than 20 singles on the Billboard country charts. In 1971, the band signed their first record deal after Van Morrison mentioned they “play great country music” in an interview in Rolling Stone. Their debut record, Comin’ Right At Ya, was released in 1973 on United Artists. The release of Texas Gold in 1975 brought the band national recognition, with the single “The Letter That Johnny Walker Read” becoming a top-ten country hit. The band has been awarded “Touring Band of the Year” (CMAs, 1976) and the “Lifetime Achievement in Performance” (Americana Music Awards 2009). In 2010, they earned a GRAMMY nomination in the newly minted Best Americana Album category for their critically acclaimed Willie & The Wheel, on Bismeaux Records.

Owned by Ray Benson, Bismeaux Records has won “Best Local Record Label” three years consecutively in the Austin Music Awards. Between 2005 and 2012, Ray Benson wrote, produced and starred in the Bob Wills musical A Ride With Bob. The production sold 70,000 tickets in 18 cities nationwide including the Kennedy Center in 2006. In 2007, Benson performed with Carrie Underwood & Johnny Gimble on the GRAMMY Awards Telecast in a special GRAMMY Salute to Bob Wills.”

Pre-order here

‘Still The King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys’ tracklist:

1. Intro—Texas Playboy Theme (with Leon Rausch)
2. I Hear Ya Talkin’ (with Amos Lee)
3. The Girl I Left Behind (with The Avett Brothers)
4. Trouble In Mind (with Lyle Lovett)
5. Keeper Of My Heart (with Merle Haggard and Emily Gimble)
6. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love (with Kat Edmonson)
7. Tiger Rag (with Old Crow Medicine Show)
8. What’s The Matter With The Mill (with Pokey LaFarge)
9. Navajo Trail (with Willie Nelson and The Quebe Sisters)
10. Silver Dew On The Bluegrass Tonight (with The Del McCoury Band)
11. Faded Love (with The Time Jumpers)
12. South Of The Border (Down Mexico Way) (with George Strait)
13. I Had Someone Else Before I Had You (with Elizabeth Cook)
14. My Window Faces The South (with Brad Paisley)
15. Time Changes Everything (with Buddy Miller)
16. A Good Man Is Hard To Fine (with Carrie Rodriguez and Emily Gimble)
17. Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas (with Robert Earl Keen and Ray Benson)
18. Brain Cloudy Blues (with Jamey Johnson and Ray Benson)
19. Bubbles In My Beer (with The Devil Makes Three)
20. It’s All Your Fault (with Katie Shore)
21. Three Guitar Special (with Tommy Emmanuel, Brent Mason and Billy Briggs)
22. Bob Wills Is Still The King (with Shooter Jennings, Randy Rogers and Reckless Kelly)

Merle Haggard / Marty Stuart Deliver a Powerful Double-Shot – Bass Hall, Ft. Worth 11/12/14

Merle Haggard / Marty Stuart A Powerful One, Two Punch - Bass Hall, FT. Worth 11/12/14

On a North Texas night chilled by an early winter snap Merle Haggard and Marty Stuart brought a welcome reprieve by turning up the heat.

“I hope you didn’t come looking for some fancy show. If you did you just wasted your money!” Stuart grinned, making a reference to the lavish Ft. Worth venue typically showcasing symphonies, ballets, operas and musicals.

But not tonight. This cold night the capacity-filled Bass hall had been transformed into a rowdy roadhouse, though a tad highfalutin one.

No chairs or longnecks were thrown (and no chicken wire across the stage required) during Stuart’s set but the atmosphere created was just that. Stuart is the consummate showman – in tight leather pants and silver rooster comb of hair – as he worked the crowd into a frenzy. Well, the crowd was largely equally as sliver, so let’s say a tizzy. He and his always extraordinary band, the Fabulous Superlatives – Kenny Vaughan on guitar, Harry Stinson on drums and Paul Martin on bass, – brought a level of bluegrass-level virtuosity that Start had honed personally from his many years in country music, including his start with Lester Flatt. The majority of the brief but satisfying set was from their just-released double album, “Saturday Night/Sunday Morning.” Honky-tonk barn-burners mixed with Gospel pew-kneelers set toes-tapping and hands-clapping.

And in the case of Stuart’s astonishing mandolin solo, jaws dropping.

As Merle Haggard said later in the program “Marty likes to work in Nashville, I DON’T! But he keeps that town alive.”

Stuart introduced the 77-year-old Haggard as he strolled out on stage as nonchalantly as a living legend might.

Decked in Blacks slacks, boosts and a black jacket with brown leather trim (my bets a Manual exclusive) a fedora/cowboy hybrid chapéu and dark sunglasses, The Hag wasted no time launching into “Big City.”

The classics kept coming, his own hits like “Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star,” Silver Wings,” “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” and others including Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Blaze Foley’s “If I Could Only Fly,” and the Townes Van Zandt he and Willie made into a radio staple “Pancho and Lefty.”

A hush fell over the crowd during his reverent rendition of “Are the Good Times Really Over.” As the song reminiscences simpler times, and better music, without resorting to saccharin tropes of as he asks teh question most of us ask whe watching a oucntry awards program, “Are the good times really over for good?”

Not as long as Haggard and Stuart walk this earth.

Haggard appeared to be a bit winded and he mentioned several times about “Being out of breath” and feeling like he was having an “asthma attack.” Given hsi recent history with health issue there was palpable concern and calls of encouragement as he sipped some hot tea a delivered on-stage by a background singer.

The one soap-box moment of the night came when Haggard asked the audience who was in favor for legalization of marijuana? He then asked “Who’s against it?” Following rhetorically with, “Why?” (video below)

Are the good times really over for good? Not as long as Haggard and Stuart walk this earth.

Merle Haggard’s set list: “Big City,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star,” Silver Wings,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” “If I Could Only Fly,” “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,” “Mama Tried,” “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “If We Make It Through December,” “Are the Good Times Really Over,” “Pancho and Lefty,” “Footlights,” “Train of Life,” “San Antonio Rose,” “Old Fashioned Love,” “Working in Tennessee” (with Marty Stuart) and “Okie From Muskogee” (with Marty Stuart) No encore.