Home Read Classic Album Review: Merle Haggard | Like Never Before

Classic Album Review: Merle Haggard | Like Never Before

The Nashville veteran sticks to his musical comfort zone on his 17,000th album.

This came out in 2004 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Don’t let that title fool ya: Merle Haggard is too old a dog to learn any new tricks. And that’s just as it should be.

After all, what  any Hag fan wants are the familiar tricks Merle does best: Classic twang, hardcore country, old-time honky-tonk and a bit of homespun working-man philosophy, all wrapped up in the country legend’s craggy croon. Thankfully, that is exactly what he delivers once again on his 17,000th disc Like Never Before. The standout track here is That’s The News, a stinging rebuke of Bush’s Iraq war and the American media’s lack of critical coverage. But while the other 10 tracks on the disc may not be so topical — with the exception of the patriotic military ode Yellow Ribbons — they’re no less satisfying. Haggard (Like I’ve Never Been Before) is a classic slice of Bakersfield honky-tonk; the playful Garbage Man and the ragtimey Lonesome Day fulfil the old-time country swing quotient; The Downside and I Dreamed You Didn’t Love Me are tear-in-your-beer ballads; and the country waltz Reno Blues offers a tender duet with fellow survivor Willie Nelson. Haggard he may be, but he’s a long way from through.