The Deal: Merle Haggard reinvents bluegrass.
The Good: He's calling it bluegrass, but having Merle Haggard fronting the project overshadows anything else going on around him. On this outing that takes some doing, with heavy hitters like Marty Stewart on mandolin and eight-time IBMA dobro player of the year Rob Ickes from Blue Highway backing him up. But as soon as that voice comes out of the speakers, you forget everything else. It's Merle, and that's all you need. His concept of bluegrass is kinda blurry. You can put a banjo and dobro on "Mama's Hungry Eyes" and call it bluegrass, but as long as it's got his voice on it, it's Haggard country. Jimmy Rodgers is the father of country, and Haggard's cover of "Jimmie Rodgers' Blues," replete with yodel, is more country blues than bluegrass. And on the Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me," the emphasis is more on the blues than the grass. But who cares? It's Haggard and its great. He's still weathered, world-weary and sounding as wonderful as ever.
The Bad: There's nothing bad about a Merle Haggard record. Ever.
The Verdict: See above, purchase, enjoy.