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Merle Haggard at Snowden Grove

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At age 73, country legend Merle Haggard released what may be the best studio album of his career with last year's I Am What I Am. But it was a triumph too-little noted. Maybe if Haggard had worked with a producer like Jack White, Rick Rubin, or T-Bone Burnett, covered songs by critically overestimated alt-rock vets like Elvis Costello or Tom Waits, or released it on some hip rock-oriented label, this autumnal gem might have gotten more attention. Instead, the 73-year-old Haggard penned a batch of new songs, recorded them with his road band at his home studio, and quietly released them via the rootsy indie Vanguard. The result was a beaut of a record — with the Western swing and straight jazz influences that have always underpinned Haggard's music pushed out front. I Am What I Am didn't sound like a final testament. It sounded like a late-life renewal with the potential for encores plenty. The first of these comes October 4th with Working in Tennessee, a new record for Vanguard that features another batch of new, original songs — along with a couple of Johnny Cash covers and a remake of Haggard's classic "Workin' Man Blues," the latter in duet with Willie Nelson. But before the new record drops, the indefatigable Haggard makes a local concert stop. Merle Haggard plays the Snowden Grove Amphitheatre Sunday, August 7th. Showtime is 7 p.m.

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