Merle Haggard

Live at Billy Bob's Texas: Motorcycle Cowboy

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Billy Bob's Texas is the self-proclaimed "World's Largest Honky-Tonk," and ever since its opening in 1981, it has been a tourist attraction in Fort Worth, Texas. Not only that, it's been featured in several films, so it's not surprising that it is known throughout America as the ultimate honky tonk. It's also not surprising that Billy Bob's decided to turn out a series of live albums by country legends who have performed at the venue. Merle Haggard's record is the fourth in the series, and Hag is by far the biggest name that Billy Bob's has yet featured. Not entirely coincidentally, it's the best in the series, as well, even if it isn't really a spectacular live album from Hag. That just goes to show how strong Merle and the Strangers (augmented by several sidemen, including the legendary Johnny Gimble) really are -- even if they give an average performance, it's still musically rich and terrifically entertaining. This live disc illustrates that. Even with it's overly clean production, which places his vocals too far forward in the mix, it's hard not to get caught up in the music, especially since he performs an unabashed crowd-pleasing set. It's not an exceptional performance, and it isn't particularly energetic, but it is enjoyable -- not only for hardcore fans, but for less-dedicated listeners as well, since these are great songs performed very well by a great band.

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