Bryan and the Haggards: Pretend It's The End of the World (2010)
The band's namesake, singer/songwriter Merle Haggard, remains a fascinating character in the history of country music. His colorful life (to put it mildly) was capped off by being granted a full pardon by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. Musically, he is known as much for what he is notthe polished sound of Nashville; instead, Haggard helped to define the contrasting "Bakersfield Sound."
Fittingly, the Haggards strip a little more polish off as well. From the opening bars of "Silver Wings," the tone is set by guitarist Jon Lundbom's down and dirty take on what is a bit of a signature riff for Haggard. His tone and touch are perfect and, by the time that Murray's soars in with Haggard's vocal line, it is clear that this is no novelty; the songs are joyous, even when sad, and the playing is tremendous. There are honky-tonk moments, there are blues, the band plays out, and it swings. There is even a very nice, extended bass solo, complete with scatting, by Moppa Elliott.
This is a terrific record, and it takes no time to stop thinking of it as a concept, and just enjoy it. It shouldn't' be a surprise, perhaps, that country tunes can work so well in a jazz setting; after all, in the words of Haggard:
Yeah drink a little beer in a tavern,
Cry a little bit of these working man blues.
Sure sounds like jazz.
Track Listing: Silver Wings; Swinging Doors; Working Man Blues; Miss the Mississippi and You; Lonesome Fugitive; All of Me Belongs to You; Trouble in Mind.
Personnel: Bryan Murray: tenor sax; Jon Irabagon: alto sax; Jon Lundbom: guitar; Moppa Elliot: upright bass; Danny Fischer: drums.
Record Label: Hot Cup Records