Picks and Pans Review: If I Could Only Fly

updated 11/06/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/06/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

Merle Haggard (Anti/Epitaph)

We should all be grateful that Merle Haggard is still performing—and in that same gloriously smooth and true voice too. As this latest CD confirms, Haggard at 63 sings with a passion and swing that would do a 23-year-old proud. He's still a masterly blues singer and still writes trenchant, sweet-melodied songs. (Haggard's band, the Strangers, remains full of verve as well.) He does show his age a little in the wistful, nostalgia-heavy tone of many of the album's 12 tunes, especially "Wishing All These Old Things Were New," "Proud to Be Your Old Man" and the title track. But with "Honky Tonk Mama," "Crazy Moon" and "Bareback," he lets us know there's plenty of vigor in the old boy yet.

Bottom Line: Master class

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