Although all the tunes were written (or co-written) by Merle Haggard, Suzy Bogguss didn’t set out to mimic or imitate the great man on Lucky. Instead, she set out to highlight the universal emotional impact of his songwriting.
Haggard, of course, helped to establish the template for the modern-day country outlaw – ornery, opinionated, and absolutely true to his musical vision. Many of his tunes are out-and-out classics – “Today I Started Loving You Again,” “Silver Wings,” and “The Bottle Let Me Down,” the three tunes that kick things off, among them. They’re primarily songs of heartbreak and hurt, and the answer is almost always drinking or the road – witness titles like ”I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink” or “The Running Kind” (“Every front door found me hopin’/I would find the back door open”).
Bogguss, who’s always remained a bit too traditional to sustain initial career success in an age of pop-country, is absolutely at home with Haggard’s material. The two toured together early on, and Bogguss’ very first chart hit was a 1989 cover of Hag’s “Somewhere Between.” She’s appropriately playful on the sweetly swinging “Let’s Chase Each Other Around The Room,” and in her hands “I Always Get Lucky With You” is a thoroughly mature and exquisitely tender declaration of heartfelt love.
Above all, though, Haggard is a master of misery, and Bogguss explores every nuance and shade of sorrow on such desolate fare as “Going Where The Lonely Go,” “Someday When Things Are Good,” and the profoundly sad “You Don’t Have Very Far To Go.” A highlight is her take on “Sing Me Back Home,“ based on Haggard’s own time behind bars – he was in the audience for Johnny Cash’s legendary concert at Folsom Prison.
Despite the traditional nature of the material, this is a thoroughly modern-sounding disc. Electric and steel guitars pop up here and there, but the sound is largely acoustic, with atmospheric, almost ghostly organ courtesy of Charles Treadway setting the mood on many tunes. Other instrumental contributions are subdued but uniformly excellent, with Chris Scruggs on guitars and mandolin particularly effective throughout. Production is delicate and dreamy, with subtle flourishes and gauzy textures that never overwhelm the basic dignity and honesty of the songs themselves.
Word is Haggard has heard Lucky and thoroughly approves. It would be hard to imagine otherwise – Lucky is both a heartfelt tribute and an expansion on his artistic legacy. It’s wise, warm, and wonderful. Go ahead – get Lucky!Powered by Sidelines