1968, Music

Sing Me Back Home (1968) by Merle Haggard and the Strangers

The way I think about music is dominated by the idea of artistic progression: did this artist improve or change from the last album. But country music poses a challenge to this outlook (just like soul does) because, for much of the genre’s history if not all of it, stasis or consistency has been deemed more important. (I’m not sure if I’m using the right words but what I am trying to say is that there isn’t much encouragement to evolve artistically in the way that there is pressure to do so in the pop rock world.)

This is the second or third Merle Haggard album I’ve heard from the late ’60s and it sounds just like the rest: there are a series of songs – originals and covers – performed in what I assume is the “Bakersfield” style, with zero acknowledgement of or concession to what is happening in the larger musical world at the time. For someone used to judging records from 1967 and 1968 on how they altered and expanded music, it’s hard to digest.

It’s a strong set of songs, though some of the strongest (to my ears) are covers. The title track is probably the best of Haggard’s originals here. Check out Virgil Shaw’s cover:

But the arrangements are from another time. That’s not entirely a bad thing – I don’t believe Haggard should have gone psychedelic – but it’s weird to me how this could have been recorded in 1963 and likely would have sounded nearly the same.

I guess I feel that I have no idea how this fits in Haggard’s oeuvre without hearing much more of his records.


All tracks composed by Merle Haggard; except where indicated

  1. “Sing Me Back Home” – 2:51
  2. “Look Over Me” – 2:58
  3. “Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp” (Dallas Frazier) – 3:00
  4. “Wine Take Me Away” (Tommy Collins, Merle Haggard) – 2:48
  5. “If You See My Baby” (Eddie Miller, Bob Morris) – 2:32
  6. “Where Does the Good Times Go” (Buck Owens) – 2:06
  7. “I’ll Leave the Bottle on the Bar” – 2:41
  8. “My Past Is Present” (Merle Haggard, Wynn Stewart) – 1:58
  9. “Home Is Where a Kid Grows Up” (Merle Haggard, Wynn Stewart, Bob Wills) – 1:57
  10. “Mom and Dad’s Waltz” (Lefty Frizzell) – 2:27
  11. “Good Times” – 2:59
  12. “Seeing Eye Dog” – 2:41
  • Merle Haggard – vocals, guitar
  • Roy Nichols – guitar
  • Glen Campbell – guitar
  • Billy Mize – guitar
  • Lewis Talley – guitar
  • George French – piano
  • Jerry Ward – bass
  • Eddie Burns – drums
  • Bonnie Owens – harmony vocals

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