Working in Tennessee

It's been 42 years since Merle Haggard sung about fading American ideals in "Okie From Muskogee," and he's only gotten more obsessed with the subject. On his ninth disc in 11 years, the 74-year-old rails against shady politicians, chemtrails and the current country scene. But the album – recorded at Haggard's California ranch – benefits from a relaxed, among-friends vibe, and Haggard's more upbeat singing about his past, from his rough early Nashville days to the hazy period when he lived on California's Lake Shasta on "Down on the Houseboat." "The party's not over/Or so it seems," he sings, sounding both grizzled and hopeful. "We're still together/And we've still got dreams."

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From The Archives Issue 1141: October 13, 2011