Staff Pick: Country legend Merle Haggard grows into his name

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From the May 1, 2014 edition

Country legend Merle Haggard grows more into his name with each passing year.

The 77-year-old’s face now mirrors a desert landscape, drawn with lines like deep, dried-out gullies, and his voice is both thinner and less weighty than in those youthful days when he belted out classics like “Okie from Muskogee” and the mournful “Mama Tried” in that inviting barkeep’s drawl. Time has had little effect on the power of the California-born singer’s songs, however, and his words, which tend to champion the struggles of the working man, can still strike a familiar chord in these modern times.

True, Haggard does occasionally fall prey to a things-were-better-when mindset (“Before The Beatles and ‘Yesterday,’ when a man could still work [and] still would,” he sings on “Are the Good Times Really Over,” channeling your FOX News-watching grandpa), but it’s to the singer’s credit that his music never feels like a relic from days long gone. Catch Haggard when you can now, because outside the likes of Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, there aren’t many of his kind left standing.

Myriam Santos photo