Picks and Pans Review: Kern River

updated 05/06/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/06/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Merle Haggard

In an especially mellow, nostalgic mode, Haggard eases out a smooth combination of pop and country semistandards and bluesy new tunes on this LP. The arrangements are simple, the singing is relaxed, and nobody seems to be trying to prove anything. They're just having a good time. Haggard nicely resurrects There I've Said It Again, a hit for Vaughn Monroe's orchestra during the Big Band era, machos gracefully through the Dixieland standby Big Butter and Egg Man and torches lightly on Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You. Among the new tunes, Freddy Powers' Natural High, with some sweet duet harmonies by Janie Fricke, is a highlight. Haggard's band, the Strangers, seems to have an especially good time, with saxophonist Don Markham enhancing the loosey-goosey mood. While Haggard has been more fiery, this album brings out his introspective side. He sounds here like a man who knows what it feels like to hurt and isn't afraid to admit it. (Epic)

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