Working Man's Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard is still country music's standard-bearer of blue-collar authenticity, and this collection – part tribute, part label showcase – features hard-partying Nashville heartthrobs like Jake Owen and Dustin Lynch pledging allegiance and hoping to gain some credibility. Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley do a melodramatic arena-rock version of "Pancho and Lefty," and Garth Brooks ("Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down") and Randy Houser ("Ramblin' Fever") fare better playing it safe. Merle's son Ben delivers "Mama Tried" and "Sing Me Back Home" – standouts that leave you craving more Haggard.

From The Archives Issue 1207: April 24, 2014