Rod Stewart has renewed his career by turning to standards with his Great American Songbook series, and Linda Ronstadt successfully followed the same path on her new CD Hummin' to Myself. Now it's Haggard's turn, and no modern country singer would have been a better choice. This 12-track album is splendid, with Haggard's rich, warm voice wrapping itself comfortably around such tunes as "Stardust," "Pennies from Heaven" and the most enjoyable take on "As Time Goes By" since Mel Blanc did it as Bugs Bunny. Three new songs fit into this Tin Pan Alley set perfectly, most notably Cindy Walker's "Going Away Party," with its rueful nod to "a sad going away party for a dream I'm tellin' goodbye."
Haggard's backup musicians sound as if they've been waiting their whole lives to get at material like this; the pianists seem like they cut their teeth in cabarets instead of saloons. Here's an idea for a sequel: Put Haggard together with Ronstadt for an album of pop duets a la Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Great singers and great songs belong together.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You"