Merle Haggard / Merle Haggard & the Strangers

A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (Or, My Salute to Bob Wills)

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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.

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