April 07, 2009
Capitol/EMI Records
Country, Honky Tonk, Western Swing Revival, Bakersfield Sound, Traditional Country

Album Review

As early as 1972, Merle Haggard hits albums bore titles that cracked jokes at the use of "best" in their names -- Truly the Best of Merle Haggard and The Best of the Best of Merle Haggard being his second two compilations -- so way down the line in 2009, after decades of albums called "The Best" and just three years after Capitol put out an excellent, generous single-disc called Hag: The Best of Merle Haggard, the label has stripped down to bare bones for 2009's The Best of Merle Haggard. The set is as basic as its title: just ten tracks, all hits, packaged in a thin "eco-friendly" sleeve that feels like an advertisement for its accompanying digital download version. The song selections ever so slightly favor '70s material, with "Soldier's Last Letter" and "Everybody's Had the Blues" standing in for "The Bottle Let Me Down" and "Sing Me Back Home," which may feel a bit off to some tastes, but everything here is superb, so it's a worthwhile sampler even if 2006's Hag paints a fuller, richer picture.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Okie from Muskogee
  2. Okie from Muskogee
  3. Mama Tried
  4. Mama Tried
  5. Carolyn
  6. Carolyn
  7. The Fightin' Side of Me
  8. The Fightin' Side of Me
  9. It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad)
  10. It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad)
  11. Workin' Man Blues
  12. Workin' Man Blues
  13. If We Make It Through December
  14. If We Make It Through December
  15. Soldier's Last Letter
  16. Soldier's Last Letter
  17. I'm a Lonesome Fugitive
  18. I'm a Lonesome Fugitive
  19. Everybody's Had the Blues
  20. Everybody's Had the Blues