Merle Haggard and the Strangers – Swinging Doors (SM-2585) (1966)

Being something of a hybrid, it’s a nonsense to call Swinging Doors “pure country” and yet there’s a mathematical precision and natural beauty here that only art of purity can achieve. In the same way that the recent MJQ and BB King posts discuss representative five-star albums of mature, but not yet ossified, genres, Swinging Doors is, as my friend said, the real deal;  a perfect example of the so-called “Bakersfield sound” which successfully (and long before Bubba-Come-Latelys of the country-rock movement) absorbed a rock & roll feel without compromising its country roots. Pointless and goofy commercial country records by Alan Jackson, George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, etc., etc., ad nauseam poured forth over the following decades in Hag’s wake, but don’t let that put you off–this is fantastic focussed music. Another US pressing, all mine for a pound from an Etchinghill bootfair.

Incidentally, I have Merle to thank for my enthusiasm for George Dickel‘s whisky (alluded to in the Rickie Lee Jones post). His quip (in the excellent The Tenacity of the Cockroach) that he keeps “a shot of George Dickel within heart-attack range at all times” led me to sample some–it’s like Jack Daniels, only smoother–now my mom kindly brings a bottle over every time she visits.

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Published in: on January 31, 2012 at 9:15 am  Leave a Comment  

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