Last time we encountered Ms. Bogguss she was delivering a primer for kids on the American Folk Songbook . She sounded great then but now it’s the adults turn as she offers up an album’s worth of Merle Haggard covers that hum and buzz with a fine honky tonk spark. A tribute album one might say but Bogguss is adamant that she never meant to go down that route. Instead she was hunkering back to her country roots and just about fell into singing old Haggard songs (her first release was a Haggard cover) in the studio and it was going so well she saw the project through. You want a tribute album? Check out Tulare Dust on Hightone Records , in the meantime here’s an album of Merle Haggard songs sung by Suzy Bogguss, perhaps dreaming his dreams.
Anyway, It almost goes without saying that the songs here are all excellent. Tear stained laments, beer drenched wallows, mournful love songs with some fighting and jail time, that’s Haggard territory after all. Bogguss captures most of these exceptionally well with a variety of styles. Outright Honky Tonk on Let’s Chase Each Other Through The Night, rockabilly roustabout on The Runnin’ Kind, Southern slinkiness on I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink. There’s a magnificently boozy and woozy Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down with Boguss sounding as sassy as hell. Hearing this reminds Blabber’n’Smoke of hearing Haggard’s songs for the first time courtesy of Emmylou Harris and, trawling back, The Burritos and Gram Parsons. Back then his songs stood out as honest and earnest and it’s as true now as it was then. It must be difficult to produce a bad cover of a Haggard song and Ms. Bogguss delivers a classy set that entertains in its own right and hopefully might lead some who listen to go back to the originals.