Merle Haggard

Epic Collection (Recorded Live)

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The title Epic Collection suggests it's a collection of hits from those years, but it came out in 1983, just two years into Merle Haggard's stint on the label, so it draws very heavily from his Capitol prime. This doesn't necessarily mean it's weighed down with hits. "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers," "Sing a Sad Song," and "Workin' Man Blues" all make appearances, but Hag finds time for the delicate "Holding Things Together" as well as Jimmie Rodgers ("Blue Yodel No. 2"), and Bob Wills ("Trouble in Mind") covers. The atmosphere is mellow, with Haggard favoring late-night ballads -- both broken-hearted and romantic -- and adopting a nicely weathered saloon crooner stance. This doesn't make for the liveliest record, but it's a nice, unassuming portrait of a master at middle age playing his way through just another date.

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