Monday, October 15, 2007

The Hag vs. Walmart

Merle Haggard's newest CD, Bluegress Sessions, includes another new social commentary from Merle. I first heard this while driving between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Conway, Arkansas ten days ago. This is the sort of anti-Wal-Mart song you might expect from a Si Kahn or Utah Phillips, but may be more artistically profound. And it will surely reach more people than a slew of cause singers.

In the chorus, Merle laments the lose of America and asks where did America go, the next line says "Everything Wal-mart all the time." In short, Wal-mart is un-American.


WHAT HAPPENED?

Merle R. Haggard (Merle Haggard Music, Inc., 8MI)

It used to be Andy and Barney Fife
Now it's Howard Stern and a brothel life
Too much crap can drive the world insane
Everybody's singing the Jailhouse Blues
Don't believe a word of the evening news
Truth that stood for years is down the drain
Trailer parks with a building code
Cul-de-sacs on a country road

High-Tech bars with bad karaoke sounds
Uncle Sam keeps your money spent
Pay your tithes, you can't pay the rent
Foreign cars selling big in American towns

CHORUS

What happened, does anybody know?
What happened, where did America go?
Everything Wal-Mart all the time.
No more mom and pop five and dimes
What happened,where did America go?
Where did America go?

How did we ever go so wrong?
Did we get too high, Did we sleep too long?
Why did we raise the price of gasoline
I remember the morning the towers fell
I fell back asleep and I dreamed of hell
I guess I thought it all was part of my dream

CHORUS

Where did it go boys? Tell me. I miss America.

The Bluegrass Sessions is to my knowledge, the first time Merle has recorded with a bluegrass sound. Surprisingly, it works.

There's a lot of musical, historical, and sociological stuff to unpack in this landmark recording. Merle has show a high regard for the history of country music. He's done tributes to Bob Wills, Jimmy Rodgers, and Lefty Frizzell. So, at first appearance, it's odd that he's never done a bluegrass album.

Actually, it may not be so strange. Merle was born in 1937 to parents who had moved to California from Oklahoma during the depression. Bluegrass wasn't invented, or didn't evolve, until the 1940s. It's my guess that bluegrass didn't have much of a following in California.

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