The Bluegrass Sessions

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David McGee
Teamed with an impeccable band featuring, among other notables, Marty Stuart, Rob Ickes, Charlie Cushman, and Aubrey Haynie, and with Allison Krauss adding a keening high harmony to an emotional rendering of his classic "Mama's Hungry Eyes," the Hag makes all the right moves on his first end-to-end bluegrass outing. The honky-tonk legend sings here with restraint and nuance, probing the lyrics from a vantage point gained with time, alternately bemused, bruised, ironic, unapologetically sentimental, but always knowing. Although he does a righteously intimate, slow grinding take on the Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me" (which is spiced with a dollop of tasty, ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David McGee
Teamed with an impeccable band featuring, among other notables, Marty Stuart, Rob Ickes, Charlie Cushman, and Aubrey Haynie, and with Allison Krauss adding a keening high harmony to an emotional rendering of his classic "Mama's Hungry Eyes," the Hag makes all the right moves on his first end-to-end bluegrass outing. The honky-tonk legend sings here with restraint and nuance, probing the lyrics from a vantage point gained with time, alternately bemused, bruised, ironic, unapologetically sentimental, but always knowing. Although he does a righteously intimate, slow grinding take on the Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me" (which is spiced with a dollop of tasty, crying dobro work from Rob Ickes, with JD Wilkes moaning away on harmonica), and sounds naturally right at home on a gently swaying reading of his "Jimmie Rodgers Blues Medley," the material is mostly Haggard originals, new and old. "Holding Things Together," a gem in its original version, is doubly piercing here, as the acoustic instruments and slower tempo heighten the anguish of a father trying to raise children after his wife has flown the coop. By the same token, "Big City," one of the evergreens from Merle's Epic years, gets a lowdown country blues treatment underscoring Hag's tempered outrage over working too long with too little to show for it. Of all these, the most moving is "Momma's Prayers," a reflection on survival, in jail and on the road, as being the blessing of his mother's prayers for him. Alternately stark and full-bodied in its instrumental arrangement, its story is quintessential Hag, tender and tough at once, with a strong moral center. Bluegrass purists may question its bloodlines, but The Bluegrass Sessions packs the punch of enduring art, rendering genre a moot point.
All Music Guide - Mark Deming
Despite signing a new deal with Capitol Records in 2004, since he parted ways with Epic Records at the end of the '80s Merle Haggard seems to have been happiest when he's as far as possible from the mainstream of contemporary country music, which would make him an ideal candidate to cut a solid bluegrass album. Abandoning any pretense of tailoring his music for radio or CMT, Haggard's best albums of the new century have been his most casual, and The Bluegrass Sessions stands alongside 2001's Roots, Vol. 1 in capturing Hag in laid-back but emphatic form. The Bluegrass Sessions was recorded with a superb acoustic ensemble and some help from guest stars Alison Krauss and Marty Stuart; the bulk of the album was cut in a single day, with Haggard singing live along with the band. While Haggard never appears to be pushing himself, he sings with the quiet commitment of a man who can't help but tell the truth as he sees it, and the low-key clarity of his vocals meshes beautifully with the subtle push and pull of the arrangements. Haggard brought a few new tunes with him for this session, and "Learning to Live with Myself" and "Wouldn't That Be Something" are worthy additions to his songbook, while "Pray" is a simple but fiercely powerful statement of faith and "What Happened?" once again demonstrates how Hag can effortlessly sound right wing and left wing all at once he hasn't gotten over 9-11 but he hates Wal-Mart, though perhaps not as much as karaoke. Haggard and company also revisit a few songs from his back catalog, and while the new versions of "Mama's Hungry Eyes," "Big City," and "Holding Things Together" can't match the originals, there's enough force in Hag's performances to prove he still knows they're great songs and can vividly communicate their virtues. While on the surface The Bluegrass Sessions sounds as casual as a warm Sunday in August, Merle Haggard's performances say more with less than nearly anyone in Nashville, and his quiet authority is a joy to hear.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/2/2007
  • Label: Mccoury Music
  • UPC: 829305000825
  • Catalog Number: 8
  • Sales rank: 6,048

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Merle Haggard Primary Artist, Guitar, Vocals
Alison Krauss Vocals
Marty Stuart Guitar, Mandolin
Rob Ickes Dobro, Slide Guitar
Carl Jackson Guitar, Tenor (Vocal)
Scott Joss Fiddle
Aubrey Haynie Fiddle
Charlie Cushman Banjo, Guitar
Ben Isaacs Upright Bass
Technical Credits
Alison Krauss Contributor
Merle Haggard Composer
Henry Glover Composer
Carl Jackson Vocal Arrangements, Vocal Producer
Freddy Powers Composer
Wayne Raney Composer
Ronnie Reno Producer
John Caldwell Engineer
Alton Delmore Composer
Rabon Delmore Composer
Teeroy Morris Graphic Design
Lee Groitzsch Engineer
Dean Holloway Composer
Randy Garrett Cover Illustration
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