added: 19 Feb 2014
// release date: 17 Feb 2014 // label: Proper
reviewer: David Spencer
Merle Haggard is not a name that is too familiar to many UK music fans, but in American country-music circles he is a pioneer, helping to create what was known as the Bakersfield sound - a reaction to the hugely polished country music that was emanating from Nashville in the sixties. Suzy Boggus says she didn't set out to record a whole album of Haggard's songs - but when she thought of records that 'spoke to her', they all happened to be his.
So here we have 12 songs, given a gentle, stripped back treatment by Boggus, delivered with her languid and pure vocal. If you haven't been aware of Haggard's songwriting before, then this is a wonderful way to dip your toes in the water. Described as 'the poet of the common man' his songs feel deeply personal yet at the same time they are universal in thought.
There are reinterpretations from a female perspective of The Bottle Let Me Down, Today I Started Loving You Again and the delightful Silver Wings, with its lazy harmonica adding a layer of emotion. For a change of pace there's a bluesy take on The Running Kind and the cheeky shuffle of Let's Chase Each Other Around The Room.
On backing vocals through the album are a number of heavyweight names from the genre, including Beth Nielsen Chapman and Matraca Berg, Boggus says Haggard's songs feel 'familiar and slightly dangerous' - and while many might say doing 12 cover versions of country classics is not dangerous at all, it is actually quite brave to take these songs on. Perhaps Boggus is more than lucky - because it works and is a fitting recognition from her of the part Haggard's played in her career.
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