Am I a redneck? I'm not too up on the nuances of stereotyping and my aim seems to be a little off, but I've always considered myself a bit too much of a cultured individual to merely succumb to the lures of ratty pick-up trucks and floppy-eared doggies. As my life changed over the years, however, I learned that I actually hated the city. Maybe I hated the people. Dunno. But I still hated country music.
That's why the unapologetic drawl of Bryan and the Haggards' Pretend It's the End of the World hit my universe hard. Here, spinning through the speakers of my rural home, came the exuberant notes of "New York's most decorated avant-country instrumental Merle Haggard cover band."
Merle Haggard? Merle Haggard.
I was never too up on Haggard, even if he was an outlaw of sorts. I dug that he worked the most unpolished end of things, sure, and his creation of the Bakersfield sound was always something that I took too more than I did the pristine and boring Nashville sound. But I never bothered much either way, preferring to sink myself into music that I actually, you know, enjoyed.
Bryan and the Haggards clearly dig Merle Haggard. It should be noted that the quintet on Pretend is the same quintet known as Big V Chord. Under the leadership of guitarist Jon Lundbom, Big V Chord has three albums to their credit. A two year hiatus produced Bryan and the Haggards, a slightly fiddled-with incarnation of the quintet with tenor saxophonist Bryan Murray serving as the leader.
And so, Merle Haggard.
Lundbom's love for Haggard comes across with every scattered, messy path he blazes. Murray, too, proves his mettle as the leader of the group by wailing and wailing and wailing away like a moonshined cowpoke looking for invisible gold. This is jazz with twang - can I call it "twazz?" - and the innovation is hard to ignore.