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Hag/Someday We'll Look Back

Hag/Someday We'll Look Back

by Merle Haggard
This double-album pairing captures country legendary Merle Haggard at the peak of his powers, but with a catch. These two 1971 albums embrace the time frame when Hag became not merely a country star but also a national figure embroiled in this nation's heated public debate over the Vietnam War and the nature of patriotism. "Okie from Muskogee" and "Fightin' Side of Me


This double-album pairing captures country legendary Merle Haggard at the peak of his powers, but with a catch. These two 1971 albums embrace the time frame when Hag became not merely a country star but also a national figure embroiled in this nation's heated public debate over the Vietnam War and the nature of patriotism. "Okie from Muskogee" and "Fightin' Side of Me" had thrust him into the dialogue, and Merle slyly played both sides of the issue, pointing out that the songs were meant satirically, but yes, he could see America going to hell in a handbasket. All the hoopla and its attendant heat sent Hag back to his roots, and into a reflective mood. Coming off "Okie" when he cut Hag, and off tribute albums devoted to the music of Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills when he cut the languid Someday We'll Look Back, Haggard didn't fan the flame "Okie" had lit; rather, showing his stuff as an artist, he turned inward and took stock, of himself and the workingman's life he understood. So in Hag he dusted off Ernest Tubb's "Soldier's Last Letter," as a reminder of the price of conflict through the ages, while in his own deliberate, measured meditation, "Jesus, Take a Hold," he calls for divine guidance to lead the country through its moral morass. Amid a glorious wash of the crying pedal steel and aching fiddle lines of "I Can't Be Myself," he complains about having to change his ways to suit another's image of him ("I can't be myself and be what pleases you," he laments in a lyric that was pregnant with meaning at a time when he was the reluctant darling of the war hawks). Someday We'll Look Back, with its loping, lazy feel and straight-ahead basic country band accompaniment, is unsparing in its depictions of the ongoing struggles of life on the bottom rung, as recounted in vivid, first-person populist dramas such as the title song, "One Row at a Time," the jaunty "California Cottonfields," the dramatic morality play "Carolyn," and Hag's pointed remembrance of his tough upbringing, "Tulare Dust" (one of his greatest original lyrics). His singing throughout is a marvel of great acting, as he submerges himself in the souls of the rootless characters populating these songs, telling their tales in a sturdy tenor that speaks with as much morality and authority as Johnny Cash. Given the state of the Union at the time of these 2006 reissues, Hag and Someday We'll Look Back are right on time, reminding us of things we need to know, 34 years on.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
In early 2006, roughly in time for the 40th anniversary of Merle Haggard's debut album, Capitol Nashville launched an ambitious Haggard catalog project, reissuing ten albums as a series of five two-fers, each adorned with bonus tracks. All these albums had been reissued before, either stateside by Capitol or Koch or in the U.K. by EMI or BGO, but they've never have been given such an excellent treatment as they are here. The albums are paired together in logical, chronological order, the 24-bit digital remastering gives these recordings the best sound they've ever had, the front cover artwork is reproduced for each album on a two-fer, and the liner notes are candid and detailed. Dedicated Hag fans certainly have nearly all this material in their collection -- not only have the albums been on CD, but the bonus tracks have by and large appeared on Bear Family's box Untamed Hawk, which chronicled his early work for Capitol, or showed up on Capitol's own box, Down Every Road -- but they still may be tempted by this series, since these discs not only sound and look terrific, but they're also more listenable than any previous CD incarnation of these classic albums. And make no mistake, all ten albums featured in Capitol Nashville's first wave of Haggard reissues in February 2006 are classic albums; some may be a little stronger than others, but there's not a weak one in the bunch, and they all stand as some of the finest music of their time. The fifth two-fer of the initial wave paired Merle's two 1971 albums, Hag and Someday We'll Look Back, two terrific, reflective records. Arriving after the superb Bob Wills salute Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World, Hag was Haggard's first collection of largely original songs in two years, since 1969's Portrait. Since that album, Haggard experienced great success with "Okie from Muskogee," which launched two quick live albums (one bearing the name of the song, the other being The Fightin' Side of Me), plus an instrumental album by the Strangers, before the labor of love of the Wills album. Perhaps Haggard had a great stock of songs saved up during those two years, because Hag is one of his absolute best albums -- which means a lot, because he recorded no shortage of great records. In contrast to the rowdy live albums and the raucous Western swing that preceded it, Hag is quite quiet and reflective, sometimes referencing the turmoil within America at the end of the '60s, but more often finding Haggard turning inward. This album turned out no less than four hits, with three of them addressing larger issues: the revival of Ernest Tubb's WWII hit "Soldier's Last Letter" is now cast in the shadow of Vietnam, Haggard's original "Jesus, Take a Hold" ponders the state of the world, while Dave Kirby's "Sidewalks of Chicago" is about homelessness. The other hit was "I Can't Be Myself," a haunting admission that the singer "can't be myself when I'm with you," and it's only one of many great originals on Hag. The tempo picks up twice, each time at the end of the side, when he kicks out the self-deprecating "I'm a Good Loser" and the nostalgic rave-up "I've Done It All," but the heart of this is in the gentler material, such as the melancholic elegy of "Shelly's Winter Love," the sighing heartbreak ballad "If You've Got Time," and "The Farmer's Daughter," an affecting tale of a father giving away his daughter in marriage. Each is an expertly observed, richly textured gem, and taken together they add up to one of Haggard's best albums, and one of his most moving. Someday We'll Look Back follows through on the spirit of Hag. Like that record, much of Someday We'll Look Back is devoted to ballads, including both lush, string-laden country-pop crossovers and simple, folky tunes, but there are also hints of twangy Bakersfield honky tonk and blues, as well as Western swing. But what really makes the record so distinctive is the quality of the material. Haggard's original songs -- including "Someday We'll Look Back," the richly evocative "Tulare Dust," "I'd Rather Be Gone," "One Sweet Hello" -- are uniformly excellent, while he invests considerable emotion into covers of Tommy Collins' "Carolyn," Dallas Frazier and Elizabeth Montgomery's "California Cottonfields," and Roger Miller's "Train of Life." The result is one of the finest albums he ever recorded, and when it's paired with Hag on this two-fer, it makes for absolutely essential listening.

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Related Subjects


Album Credits

Performance Credits

Merle Haggard   Primary Artist

Technical Credits

Merle Haggard   Composer
Dottie West   Composer
Tommy Collins   Composer
Redd Stewart   Composer
Ernest Tubb   Composer
Richard M. Jones   Composer
Red Simpson   Composer
Hank Cochran   Composer
Dallas Frazier   Composer
Dave Kirby   Composer
Red Lane   Composer
Spencer Williams   Composer
Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys   Composer
Joel Selvin   Liner Notes
Earl Montgomery   Composer
Chris Clough   Reissue Producer
Dean Holloway   Composer
Howard Kim   Reissue Design

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