Merle Meets Ornette

My favorite new CD is a recent release from Brian and the Haggards. Basically a jazz quintet, they do covers of Merle Haggard favorites, but with a big twist... with two sax players and a free jazz bent, the Merle tunes take on an Ornette Coleman flavor.

This is wild stuff. Blazing Telecaster, western swing drumming, free sax interplay, and, yet, lots of emotion. The flavor of the Haggard tunes still comes across strongly, even in this jazz context. Each tune features a different member of the group, everyone gets his chance to solo.

"Swinging Doors" begins with some great bluesy country playing, then the saxes go places, but the blues flavor always stays with the tune. Same with the guitar solo. This may be the most straight ahead country blues cut on the CD... because... "Working Man Blues" soars way, way out there. Alto sax beyond belief... All in all, this CD contains a fine set of musical flavors.

Country purists may want to drag these guys behind a pickup truck down a gravel road, but, that's so provincial. This stuff works. The musicians are excellent. Brilliant idea, and very well done. And the liner notes, info on Merle's early years and meeting Ornette, are worth the whole CD purchase.

Get the CD on iTunes or from CDBaby. Best of the year so far.

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