Music News

Critic's Choice

Given that Merle Haggard marked his 65th birthday earlier this month, no one would brand him a slacker if he decided to call it a career. Fortunately, though, Bakersfield's favorite son, who headlines at the Fillmore Auditorium on Sunday, April 21, isn't the retiring sort, and despite his vintage, he's in the midst of a late-period renaissance that's reconfirmed his status as a country-music icon with an independent streak an acre wide. A couple years back, he cut his ties with the Nashville establishment, signing with Anti-, a label whose parent imprint, Epitaph, is better known for punk-rock mayhem than for heartfelt confessions about how hard Mama tried. But rather than spiking his hair and duetting with Dexter Holland, Haggard used the opportunity to record a pair of shaggy, offhand, thoroughly enjoyable discs -- 2000's If I Could Only Fly and last year's Roots Volume 1 -- that make zero concessions to the distressingly banal "hot country" marketplace. Ol' Merle may not be fashionable these days, but his music's built to last. And so is he.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts