Working in Tennessee
, Merle Haggard
's second album for Vanguard, plays a little slower and softer than 2010’s I Am What I Am
, a record where Hag
gently dwelled on his mortality. There are times where his age crosses his mind -- particularly on “Sometimes I Dream,” where he casually lists off things that aren’t likely to pass his way again -- but generally, he’s ready to “Laugh It Off” as he gripes about what’s playing on the radio, smokes a little dope, and enjoys playing a little bit of blues as he looks back to the past, even cutting a couple of old favorites (“Cocaine Blues,” “Jackson”) and a new version of “Working Man Blues.” Hag
never rushes things, never turns up the volume, his western swing now bearing a closer resemblance to the gentlemanly amiability of Hank Thompson
instead of the wild, woolly Bob Wills
. He’s proceeding at the pace of a 74-year-old legend with nothing to prove, yet he’s not resting on his laurels, he’s just doing what he’s always done: singing songs so expertly his virtuosity almost goes unnoticed.