MERLE HAGGARD & MAC WISEMAN – Timeless

MERLE HAGGARD & MAC WISEMAN
Timeless
If Teardrops Were Pennies – High On A
Hilltop – I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home – I’ll Be All Smiles
Tonight – Learning To Live With Myself – Jimmy Brown The Newsboy – Mama
Tried – Sunny Side of Life – Bringing Mary Home – Tis Sweet To Be
Remembered – Old Christian Soldiers – Lord Don’t Give Up On Me – Hold
Fast To The Right
 
     OK, give me a chance to see through the tears I shed
from the very beginning of this incredibly remarkable album by two of my
heroes Merle Haggard and Mac Wiseman.  I couldn’t believe it, last
Tuesday the phone rang, I answered in my genial way, and on the other
end of the line was Mac Wiseman.  “Hello Bob, Mac Wiseman here.”  Well
that’s all it took.  Mac is the most important mover and shaker, not
only in the creation of traditional rural country music, but the most
important mover and shaker in keeping it alive.  A founder of the
Country Music Association as well as ROPE in Nashville, this very
pleasant man was one of my first choices for the “Old Time Country
Music” PBS television show I hosted for seven years that eventually
aired in 22 states.  Now to this CD.  The opening song, with a
distinctive Dobro intro, knocked me senseless right off the bat, because
of its purity, its innocence, its sincerity, its honesty.  For me this
is the very epitome of ‘country’ music and what the word ‘country’
word actually means. My experience working with Mac Wiseman is certainly
a large part of why I continue to battle for the ‘real’ country music
of rural America.  It’s a very special musical art form and genre, and
is being bullied and used in a most undignified manner today in
commercial music, but no matter, as long as there is a Merle Haggard and
a Mac Wiseman standing strongly by its side, it will be a very
difficult representation of rural America to destroy.  Mac, as many of
you know, is up in his years, mostly confined to a wheelchair these
days, but his voice, his energy, his dedication is stronger than ever.
Hearing him sing on this CD took me back to our very first festival of
old-time American rural music in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he was also
my first choice performer.  That same festival is now in its 40th
year.  Mac was terrific then, and he’s not only terrific now, he’s
better.  Like a very distinctive and remarkable vintage of wine, age
makes it better, solid proof in Mac’s incredible voice. This CD is
without a doubt one of the very best and very real ‘traditional’ musical
offerings in the music of today.  So, already totally amazed at the
incredible durability and sustainability of Mac Wiseman, my other solid
hero, Merle Haggard joins in, and turns on the golden voice of tradition
to enthrall me even more. Is this weird or what.  Merle and Willie are
the two super-stars I’ve never had the gumption to try to become close
to, simply because of their obvious God-given ability to not only
understand, but able to place before us a very religious listening
experience.  On this CD “Mama Tried” has never sounded so good, with the
acoustic backing, the traditional trait, the obvious love Haggard has
for the experience of music.  From his first Johnny Cash exposure to the
‘way’ music can express true feelings, Merle has never faltered in his
presentation of real, honest, sincere, true, beautiful, even gutsy
presentations of America’s rural music.  “Opry” is a word transfigured
from the word “Opera.”  Opera is a story telling presentation at a very
high level and usually European in origin and sung in  Italian or French
or some other European language.  Opry is the very same thing, except
it is more simple, very American, very rural, and English in language.
Merle Haggard is the very epitome of the word ‘Opry’ in all its many
forms.  His astonishing ability to place before our ears not only the
romance of rural music, but the sweetened presentation that makes it so
special, so revered by so many, so American to its very core. 
     This remarkable musical project came about when Merle
asked Mac to do a recording session together. Mac said it took all of 3
seconds for him to say yes.  AND one of the best traditional music
producers in the business, Ronnie Reno took on the gentlemanly post of
putting it all together.  First off he gathered some of the best
musicians still living that ‘know’ what the traditional sound is all
about. Rob Ickes on Dobro, that just knocks the listener out on those
first 15 seconds of that first song, which determines whether a musical
work is going to be listened to or not.  He certainly did that with “If
Teardrops Were Pennies.”  Merle does his own guitar work, superlative as
usual, however Marty Stuart provides his own special ‘take’ on guitar,
and Carl Jackson brings his personality to this musical feast on the
same instrument.  All of it acoustic without electronic interference,
which makes it even more special. Aubrey Haney on fiddle, joined by Andy
Leftwich on fiddle and mandolin.  Marty Stuart also adds his own
personality on mandolin.  Ben Isaacs on acoustic bass, how could it be
any other way, or any better.  Even the finesse of autoharp and hammered
dulcimer is contributed by Craig Duncan.  Harry Stinson on drums and a
beautiful mix on vocals including Sonya and Becky Isaacs and Vince Gill,
and the superb Ronnie Reno as well.  Ronnie by the way has consented to
allow us to put him in America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame in
2016.  Mac is already in it, and maybe someday Merle Haggard if I can
ever get the guts to try to talk to him.  This musical adventure back in
time, as well as steeped in the present, could not be better named. 
“Timeless” is exactly what these two remarkable singers represent, as do
the songs that were selected for them to perform.  There is no doubt in
my mind the Rural Roots Music Commission, here in the upper Midwest,
would place this CD at the very top of their “True Country CD of the
Year” award, but I don’t know who could possibly make it to LeMars,
Iowa, this year to accept it.  Mac doesn’t fly anymore, and the dates
can be a compromise no matter how you look at it, Aug 31-Sept 6.  We’ll
wait and see, in the meantime this incredibly beautiful CD is available
at the Cracker Barrel stores across America, and that in itself is a
miracle of sorts.  Another story, another time.  As is two old
Christians.  Ain’t it great!
MUSIC REVIEW BY BOB EVERHART – www.ntcma.net
for Country Music News International

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