Like Never Before
First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2003, Volume 10, #11
Written by John Metzger
Like it or not, Merle Haggard has always stated exactly what was on his mind, and hence, he is no stranger to controversy. Even before the release of his new album Like Never Before, Haggard was drawing immense attention for its first single Thatís the News. The song indicts the media as well as the Bush Administration for its premature declaration that the war in Iraq had concluded, and as the bodies of American soldiers continue to pile up ó now eclipsing those lost during the actual war ó its sentiments have become all the more important. Before Haggard can be labeled unpatriotic by a presidency thatís determined to silence its critics, however, he offers Yellow Ribbons, a flag-waving anthem for Americaís soldiers.
At a time when country music has once again crossed into decidedly pop-oriented terrain, the genre desperately needs its grizzled heroes to step up to the plate and hit one out of the park, putting the Shania Twains and Faith Hills of the world on notice. Unfortunately, Like Never Before fails to recapture the magic of Haggardís glory days. Although he continues to peddle the hardcore country that has served as the foundation of his 40-year career, and in spite of the fact that he sprinkles his new songs with elements of Western swing, blues, and jazz, the album just doesnít work. Itís cordial and complaisant, but itís hardly engaging or essential.
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box