There may be better, more-comprehensive Merle Haggard compilations out there but this budget collection, Hag - The Best of Merle Haggard, will always be my favorite compilation of his. Why? Well, here's why below.
As I moved to Nashville to start my career as the Editor of RoughStock in 2008, I purchased Hag - The Best of Merle Haggard to be part of my soundtrack for the trip (even though I had an iPod full of great music). It’s part of a tradition I started years ago about buying a new (to me) album to listen to on a road trip. It is easily the best purchase I ever made.
I had known these songs on Hag - The Best of Merle Haggard for a long time. I know these songs. There are 26 great tracks (only 19 on the digital version here) including iconic tracks like “Silver Wings,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Workin’ Man Blues,” “Today I Started Loving You Again,” “If We Make It Through December,” “Pancho and Lefty” with Willie Nelson, “I Think I’ll Just Sit Here And Drink,” and — of course — the iconic trio of Hag songs: “The Fightin’ Side Of Me,” “Okie From Muskogee” and “Hungry Eyes.”
As great as those songs are, this 2006 release opened my eyes to some others I wasn’t as familiar with, chestnuts like “I Take A Lot Of Pride In What I Am,” “The Legend of Bonnie And Clyde,” “Someday We’ll Look Back,” “Old Man From The Mountain” and “Living With The Shades Pulled Down.”
There’s no specific reason to say why these songs are so great other than the fact that the melodies are strong, the instrumentation perfect and, well, the song lyrics ever more on point. Merle Haggard was constantly writing and performing throughout his career and as sad as we are that he’ll no longer be here to deliver new music or even perform his hits, we’ll always have his iconic catalog and for me, with this collection, I’ll always have fond memories associated with this collection of hits, Hag — The Best of Merle Haggard.