Saturday, November 12, 2005

Help Me Out Here, Folks

I've tried, a half dozen LP's have passed through my hands, a dusty box set sits on my shelf, and some CD's are gathering dust, unplayed. I've got all matter of stuff beckoning to be traded for something I will actually listen to. I've tried. Oh, how I have tried. I've tried listening in my car late at night, listening while drunk, listening after watching a Western. I read one of the volumes of his autobiography. I can whole heatedly admit that the image of him being the shit kickingest sumbitch from Catalina to Timbuktu seems valid. I think I may have even forgiven for, if memory serves finding God (after all, the devil is the only deity that passes muster with yours truly). But, I just don't get Merle Haggard. Maybe it's me.

Maybe it's that my Country ears just aren't developed enough. I've never owed a cowboy hat. I hate camping. I'd rather get a terminal disease then go on a cattle drive. I think the romanticism of the West is completely ridiculous. The old West was, depending on the season, either far too hot or far too cold, and every single person was illiterate ugly, mean, covered with filth, or some combination of all four. I think the modern Country Music industry is only slightly preferable to Nazism. I love the Carter Family. I adore Ernest Tubb. I listen to Hank Williams often. Johnny Cash, Marvin Rainwater, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Roger Miller, Buck Owens, The Louvin Brothers, Tammy Wynette, all of them are great, and I find myself putting on their records. But still, is my straining to find something that makes Haggard stand out amongst such towering company and coming up short is like asking some Country aficionado to discuss the finer points in the difference between Pussy Galore and The Birthday Party?

I don't know. I'm about to permanently give up, and jettison myself of all Haggard material. His songs always seem to throw in a wrong chord, and while terrifically competent, never really stick in my noggin. I think of his output as passive background ambience, and anything more and my take-this-off-the-turntable muscle begins to itch something fierce.

So tell me, before I throw in the towel, anything I should listen to? Any wonderful tracks I managed to miss that I should dust off?