The Show: Wednesday, January 16, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Merle Haggard

By Ken Shimamoto

You’ve gotta wonder why the Bakersfield country sound pioneered by Merle Haggard carries such resonance for the current generation of alt-country rockers. Surely, it couldn’t be as simple as “Lessee ... truckdrivers like to take speed. We like to take speed. Truckdrivers like Hag. We like Hag!” Nah, Merle walked the walk, talked the talk, did the time, and sang the shit out of everything that was put in front of him, even after the years of too much whiskey and too many cigarettes had taken their toll. Maybe it’s an integrity thang. And these days, when a relative youngster like Dale Watson is starting to look like “one of the old guys,” you know something good’s going on.

The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash make their homes in San Diego, which is about as far from Bakersfield as we are from, say, Austin. But they’ve opened shows for and covered songs by Haggard and Watson. They namecheck ’70s outlaws like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson, and even played Willie’s annual 4th of July picnic a few years back. No, they’re not the illegitimate progeny of the Man in Black, nor do they sound much like him, but they have had a couple of tracks produced by his son, and they’ve even covered “Long Black Veil,” a cornerstone of both his classic “live in prison” albums.

Their new Ultimatum Records c.d., Distance Between, was produced by Mark Howard, who was Daniel Lanois’ engineer on Big Albums by Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, and U2. It features head Bastard Son Mark Stuart trading in his acoustic for a Les Paul. Not a rock move, he swears. Fair enough: Loud loneliness-and-heartbreak is still loneliness-and-heartbreak. And letting their show be opened by Speedtrucker (who are to Bakersfield as Reverend Horton Heat is to rockabilly) won’t hurt, either.

Sat at the Wreck Room, 3208 W 7th St, FW. 817-348-8303.


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