Home Read Classic Album Review: Merle Haggard | Roots Volume 1

Classic Album Review: Merle Haggard | Roots Volume 1

The Hag and guitarist Norman Stephens take a laid-back stroll down memory lane.


This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Even legends have heroes.

For country icon Merle Haggard, those heroes would be predecessors like Lefty Frizzell, Hank Thompson and Hank Williams. Also on that list would be guitarist Norman Stephens, who played with both Frizzell and Thompson. Here, thanks to happy coincidence — the two men recently learned they lived just a few miles apart in Northern California — Haggard and Stephens team up to pay homage to those old sounds, old songs and old souls. The old-timey masterpiece Roots Volume 1, recorded in Hag’s living room, is just as relaxed as you’d expect, with the two old dogs casually taking a laid-back stroll down memory lane, revisiting classics like If You’ve Got the Money, Honky Tonkin’ and Take These Chains From My Heart. Haggard’s weathered voice, as creaky as an old screen door, is still a magnificent instrument, especially when it’s intertwined with Stephens’ shimmering tones and delicate runs. Together, these legends make real country music for real country fans.

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