Tuesday, October 6, 2009

KERN RIVER by Merle Haggard

As I get ready to head to Malta, Montana for the TBob/Perry S. birding extravaganza, I am thinking about Merle Haggard. There has been a lot of Haggard's music on Outlaw Country this week, which is always a good thing. Also, Rolling Stone had a great article about Merle in the last issue. I encourage you to read it if you are a fan.

Reading the article made me think about the large contribution Merle has made to country music during his long career. The article also reminded me of the colorful life he has led. Haggard has had more lives than your average cat.

In my last post on Merle from Feb 2, 2009, I wrote that one of my all time favorite Haggard songs is Kern River. Imagine my surprise when I read in the article that both Bob Dylan and Dave Alvin agree with me. I'm flying in some pretty good company. This what they both said about one of Merle's classic songs:

"Merle is the voice of another California." Alvin singles out "Kern River" — about a girl drowning in the treacherous waters that separated Bakersfield from the Okie settlements — as one of the great evocations of place and class in the Golden State. "It's amazingly deep and complicated," he says. "I hear a lot of California in those two and a half minutes." Dylan loves "Kern River" too, but for other reasons. "Sometimes you forget about how much natural-born heartbreak there is in a Merle Haggard song, because of all the boomtown oil-well Dust Bowl honky-tonk imagery of his music," he says. "I mean, 'Kern River' is a beautiful lament, but let's not forget it's about his girlfriend dying."

If you are not familiar with this great song, here is another chance to hear it: Kern River

I can assure you there will be plenty of Merle Haggard on the iPod around our Montana camp fire this weekend. Catch you on the flip side.


  1. The Hag catalog is amazing and Kern River is hauntingly beautiful. I own two Merle box sets and I am always amazed by the quality of output from the guy. I just don't see anything down the road that will match the prolific capacity of this country great. EE

  2. You are dead on about that. Thanks for the comment, EE.

  3. I am a country music and oldies lover. Merle Haggard is one of my facourite singers.