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Country - Released January 1, 1969 | Capitol Nashville

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Same Train, Different Time is Merle Haggard's affectionate tribute to Jimmie Rodgers. Haggard provides narration between the songs, offering tales of Rodgers' life and music. While the album is rooted in the past, the key to its success is how Haggard updates these traditional songs without losing sight of their roots. There are contemporary folk, country and blues influences scattered throughout the record, adding depth to the music and proving that Rodgers' music is indeed timeless. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2001 | Capitol Nashville

Mama Tried is a typically fine late-'60s LP from Merle Haggard, comprised of a number of strong originals and several excellent covers. While "Mama Tried" stands out among Haggard's original material, "I'll Always Know" and "You'll Never Love Me Now" are both solid songs. Still, those two tracks pale next to the best covers on the record. Merle delivers "Little Ole Wine Drinker Me," "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)," "Teach Me to Forget," "Run 'Em Off" and "Too Many Bridges to Cross Over" with grit and an open, affecting honesty that makes Mama Tried one of Hag's best records. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released February 1, 1974 | Capitol Nashville

Usually, Merle Haggard's musical eclecticism is a virtue, but on If We Make It Through December, it hurts the overall impact of the album. Many of the individual tracks--particularly the gentle, yearning title track and good versions of Lefty Frizzell's "I'm An Old, Old Man (Tryin' To Live While I Can)" and the country standard "To Each His Own"--work well on their own, but often the straight-up country, western swing, Dixieland experiements and pop-tinged ballads seem at odds with each other. As a result, the LP never quite gels, yet there are enough fine moments to make it a worthwhile purchase. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2001 | Capitol Nashville

This early Capitol album contains the haunting "House of Memories." Haggard begins to really let his roots show on this one -- see "Rough and Rowdy Ways," the Jimmie Rodgers classic. In this great early period Haggard, while seeming entirely contemporary, could evoke the Ghosts of Country Past in an absolutely convincing way without nostalgia or imitation. © George Bedard /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2010 | Capitol Nashville

After releasing his tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, Merle Haggard immediately set about working on a tribute to his other major musical idol, Bob Wills. Haggard learned how to play fiddle and, within a month, he recruited many of the original Playboys to augment the Strangers and began recording the album that became A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player (Or My Salute to Bob Wills). Where Same Train, Different Time was a measured, heartfelt tribute, Best Damn Fiddle Player is a ragged, enthusiastic good time. Haggard, the Strangers, and the Playboys play their hearts out, breathing life into Wills warhorses like "Right or Wrong," "Stay a Little Longer," "Time Changes Everything," and "San Antonio Rose," while bringing attention to lesser-known songs like "Brain Cloudy Blues," "I Knew the Moment I Lost You," and "Old-Fashioned Love." The fact that Western swing re-established itself as a viable country genre after the release of A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player is a testament to the power and charm of this record. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 1972 | Capitol Nashville

Included are "Today I Started Loving You Again," "No Reason to Quit," "Every Fool Has a Rainbow," "Hungry Eyes" -- some of his best ballads plus the jingoistic faves "Okie from Muskogee" and "The Fightin' Side of Me." There are a few duds, though -- some of the early Capitol albums are more consistent. © George Bedard /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2001 | Capitol Nashville

Like Swinging Doors before it, Branded Man/I Threw Away the Rose is merely a collection of songs pieced together to cash in on a couple of hit singles. Nevertheless, the intent of an album such as this doesn't really matter when the songs are this fine. In addition to the two title tracks, Haggard co-writes "You Don't Have Very Far to Go" and "Somewhere Between" (with Red Simpson and Bonnie Owens, respectively). While the latter isn't as good as his three other original songs ("Branded Man," "I Threw Away the Rose," "You Don't Have Very Far to Go"), the remainder of the album is comprised of outside material that ranks among some of Haggard's finest performances ("Go Home," "Long Black Limousine," "I Made the Prison Band," "Don't Get Married," "Loneliness Is Eating Me Alive"). © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2001 | Capitol Nashville

Sing Me Back Home follows the blueprint of Merle Haggard's first three albums, balancing a hit single with album tracks and a couple of covers, but there is a difference. Where the previous album Branded Man was a transitional album, hinting that Haggard's talents were deepening substantially, Sing Me Back Home is the result of the flowering of his talent. Like any '60s country album, there are a couple of throwaways (like "The Bottle Let Me Down" rewrite "I'll Leave the Bottle On the Bar"), but the majority of the album is full of rich material, from "The Son of Hickory Holler's Tramp," "Good Times," and "Wine Take Me Away." © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 1969 | Capitol Nashville

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Same Train, Different Time is Merle Haggard's affectionate tribute to Jimmie Rodgers. Haggard provides narration between the songs, offering tales of Rodgers' life and music. While the album is rooted in the past, the key to its success is how Haggard updates these traditional songs without losing sight of their roots. There are contemporary folk, country and blues influences scattered throughout the record, adding depth to the music and proving that Rodgers' music is indeed timeless. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2010 | Capitol Nashville

While the title track is a gentle, affecting ballad, It's All in the Movies doesn't contain enough similarly engaging material to make the record successful. The album is at its best when Haggard delves into western swing, such as "Living with the Shades Pulled Down," or when he delivers straightforward ballads like "Nothin's Worse Than Losing" and "I Know An Ending When It Comes, " but too many of the songs on the LP are pleasant, but inconsequential, filler. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2010 | Capitol Nashville

In 1975, Merle Haggard was enjoying his biggest crossover hit since "Okie from Muskogee" when he wrote and performed the theme song for the television series Movin' On (which starred Claude Akins and Frank Converse as a pair of gypsy truck drivers), and it's no surprise that the song became the title track to one of the two albums Hag released that year. Despite its chart status, "Movin' On" was one of Haggard's less impressive celebrations of the working class, and with the exception of a high-spirited cover of Dolly Parton's "Kentucky Gambler," the bulk of this set is dominated by love songs. If the arrangements and production are noticeably more tricked up than the minimal perfection of Haggard's 1960s sides and these lyrics aren't his sharpest meditations on the male/female relationship, for the most part Keep Movin' On finds Hag in worthy form, and "Always Wanting You," "A Man's Got to Give Up a Lot," and "September in Miami" are memorable if lesser-known numbers. In short, anyone who loves Merle Haggard's music won't be let down by picking this up, and while this is hardly the place to start investigating his albums for Capitol, it's still a notch or two above his average, if not a masterpiece. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released November 1, 1976 | Capitol Nashville

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The Roots of My Raising is Merle Haggard's final recording for Capitol. Like its predecessor, My Love Affair With Trains, it features only one of his originals. But it's difficult to say whether Haggard was saving his own songs for his new deal with MCA or had specifics in mind when he made these albums. It was a hell of a way to go out though: The album garnered two number one singles (Hag's 23rd and 24th) in the title track written by the great Tommy Collins and Cindy Walker's "Cherokee Maiden," which Bob Wills hit with in 1941. The most interesting thing about these songs as hit singles is how far outside the mainstream of country music they were. The music was becoming slicker and more urban for the first time in a decade, and urban cowboy was just around the corner. One of Haggard's most overlooked gems is here, though it was never issued as a single. "What Have You Got Planned Tonight, Diana?" is a deeply moving love song from the bed of a dying man. There's also Haggard's definitive version -- he recorded it three different times -- of Lefty Frizzell's hit "I Never Go Around Mirrors" and his own lovely and poignant "Am I Standing in Your Way." The Strangers remained the most rock-solid of country bands, able to slide from honky tonk to near-bluegrass stomp to Jimmie Rodgers-style blues ("Gamblin' Polka Dot Blues" and "Delta Blues") to Western swing with a horn section on "Cherokee Maiden." While The Roots of My Raising ended a 12-year relationship with Capitol, it was also the end of a particular stylistic direction for Haggard. The move to MCA would see an evolution in his sound and recording approach. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Country - Released December 1, 1972 | Capitol Nashville

Despite the presence of the excellent title track, It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad) is only a fitfully entertaining album, equally divided between the excellent and the mediocre. A few of the throwaways are entertaining, particularly the rolling "New York City Blues," but songs like "Dad's Old Fiddle" and "My Woman Keeps Lovin' Her Man" fail to make an impression. There are a handful of hidden gems ("I Wonder Where I'll Find You At Tonight, " "I Wonder What She'll Think About Me Leaving, " "Goodbye Comes Hard for Me"), but the record remains a frustrating listen. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2010 | Capitol Nashville

Merle Haggard designed 1972's Let Me Tell You About a Song as a kind of musical autobiography, crafted in equal parts from personal reminiscence and from songs that formed the core of Hag the musician. So, in a way, the album brings together two big themes within Haggard's recording career -- tribute albums and a rose-colored, nostalgic view of the past -- and it does so smashingly. A project like this can't help but succumb to corniness on occasion, which this certainly does, particularly in the spoken recitations that pepper the album (he is, after all, telling you about a song on this record) and on the hit opening track, "Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man)," a tale about a traveling family band with a blind father and a deaf mother who "read our lips and helped the family sing," a story that Haggard says explains itself but only gets more mystifying with each listen. Some could also argue that his tribute to his recently deceased grandmother, "Grandma Harp," is also a little corny, but it gets through on its heart, and the rest of the album is so remarkably clear-eyed, even with those spoken introductions, that it makes up for the slight silliness. The album is pretty evenly divided between originals and covers, and the two hits -- the aforementioned "Daddy Frank" and "Grandma Harp" -- are actually the slightest numbers here, since they sit next to the stark autobiographical "They're Tearing the Labor Camps Down," the beautiful barroom ballad "Turnin' Off a Memory," and "Irma Jackson," a song about an interracial romance that Haggard was finally able to release on this record. These songs are contrasted by the covers: one song by Red Simpson, one by Red Foley, and two each by his heroes Tommy Collins and Bob Wills. None of these songs were hits and, in fact, apart from Wills' "A Maiden's Prayer," they're not particularly well-known, which only emphasizes Haggard's connection to the music, and helps ties together the album into the musical biography that was intended. It's quite a journey, and it's yet another excellent record from an artist who at this time in his career seemed capable of delivering nothing less. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 1971 | Capitol Nashville

Released in 1971, The Land of Many Churches is similar to other Merle Haggard tribute albums released in the same era, including Same Train, Different Time and I Love Dixie Blues. To his credit, Haggard had a greater need to shine light on the music that influenced him, more so than the need to release material that guaranteed a surefire hit. These 24 tracks include gospel chestnuts "Precious Memories," "Turn Your Radio On," "Amazing Grace," and a great version of the Hank Williams composition "I Saw the Light." Recorded live at the Nashville Union Rescue Mission and several rural churches across the country, Haggard is joined by guests Bonnie Owens and the Carter Family. Highly recommended to traditional country fans. © Al Campbell /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 1974 | Capitol Nashville

In 2004, Shania Twain released a "Greatest Hits" after making four albums between 1993 and 2002. Anyone wanting a perspective on how the music business has changed since the 1960s and '70s (especially as far as country music is concerned) should stack those figures against Merle Haggard's early output: he released his first album in 1965, and dropped Merle Haggard Presents His 30th Album in 1974. And yes, he really did put out 30 LPs during those nine years, and while His 30th Album is a solid piece of work, the album doesn't sound as if Haggard intended to make this LP into an event -- this is pretty much what one would expect from a Merle Haggard album at the time. Hag drops in a few excellent songs ("Things Aren't Funny Anymore," "Don't Give Up on Me," and "Holding Things Together") alongside a bunch of good ones, and mixes up some tough, funny honky tonk sides ("Old Man from the Mountain," "Honky Tonk Night Time Man," and "It Don't Bother Me") with more heartfelt themes ( "The Girl Who Made Me Laugh" and "White Man Singin' the Blues"). If Merle Haggard didn't come up with a masterpiece for his 30th album, you could argue he didn't have to -- he made consistently stronger albums than most of his contemporaries in country music, and he was still doing that 30 LPs and nine years into his recording career, and that in itself is a pretty impressive accomplishment. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released December 1, 1972 | Capitol Nashville

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Despite the presence of the excellent title track, It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad) is only a fitfully entertaining album, equally divided between the excellent and the mediocre. A few of the throwaways are entertaining, particularly the rolling "New York City Blues," but songs like "Dad's Old Fiddle" and "My Woman Keeps Lovin' Her Man" fail to make an impression. There are a handful of hidden gems ("I Wonder Where I'll Find You At Tonight, " "I Wonder What She'll Think About Me Leaving, " "Goodbye Comes Hard for Me"), but the record remains a frustrating listen. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released February 1, 1974 | Capitol Nashville

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Usually, Merle Haggard's musical eclecticism is a virtue, but on If We Make It Through December, it hurts the overall impact of the album. Many of the individual tracks--particularly the gentle, yearning title track and good versions of Lefty Frizzell's "I'm An Old, Old Man (Tryin' To Live While I Can)" and the country standard "To Each His Own"--work well on their own, but often the straight-up country, western swing, Dixieland experiements and pop-tinged ballads seem at odds with each other. As a result, the LP never quite gels, yet there are enough fine moments to make it a worthwhile purchase. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released July 1, 1976 | Capitol Nashville

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Country - Released November 16, 1970 | Capitol Nashville

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