A double treat for Haggard fans…
From the Archive Series of the Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum comes the DVD entitled LEGENDARY PERFORMANCES – MERLE HAGGARD (via Shock in Australia). This is the first chance for many of us to witness live USA television appearances by Merle Haggard and the Strangers dating from 1968 (Branded Man on ‘Country Music Holiday’) through to 1983 (San Antonio Rose on the ‘Johnny Cash Christmas Special’). Amusingly on the earliest clips, the band was almost stationary, like deer caught in the headlights of the television studio. It must be remembered that their sound however, particularly the interplay between guitarist Roy Nichols and steel-man Norm Hamlet, was revolutionising the country music scene. By the time they performed Workin’ Man Blues on ‘Pop! Goes The Country’ in 1974, both Merle and the band were pushing the boundaries again by incorporating improvisation and extended solos into their show. This harked back to the western swing style of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys whose music was undergoing a revival, spearheaded by Merle Haggard and The Strangers who by now included the legendary Tiny Moore on electric mandolin. Merle is the poet whose words championed the disenfranchised everyday man and The Strangers are the band that set the standards that still hold true today. This DVD is not to be missed.
It’s a good time to be a Hag fan because also out now is a DVD of Merle Haggard’s very first Austin City Limits performance, containing 12 different songs than the previously released 1985 show. LIVE FROM AUSTIN, TX ’78 (via Shock in Australia) comes as a dual CD/DVD package. This is a wonderfully relaxed show with a large band (eleven onstage including three fiddles when Merle takes up the bow) and a fine mix of Haggard hits and western swing standards. This is not only a near-perfect record of their live show, but historically a significant snapshot of the best in country music, the way it was in 1978.
For a bit of light-hearted diversion, check out SLEEVEFACE, a site that features “one or more persons obscuring or augmenting any part of their body or bodies with record sleeve(s) causing an illusion”. Some of the contributors’ photos involve them holding an LP cover in front of their face while dressed in appropriate clothes to become part of the picture, but some of them are much more inventive. It has to be seen to be appreciated and the site has also spawned a book of images. If you want join in as well as observing, there is an entertaining how-to video tutorial on the site which is itself worth watching just for fun. Pictured here is my own humble effort, in keeping with this column, Merle Haggard – Live In Our Living Room.
On a local note, our own SHEA FISHER stands poised on the brink of International stardom and you can find out why when you download a free track from her new album Shea. The following link will take you to the E-card for the track and also lead you her latest video clip, filmed in Los Angeles.
Bob talked to Barbara Morison on 2SER 107.3 FM about this month’s column and more…
Until next time, happy surfing!