12 Songs, 55 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Jazz and country certainly aren’t complete strangers. Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis’s 2008 release Two Men with the Blues and the western swing of Bob Wills are two well-known examples of the genres mixing. One of the wilder modern outfits mining this strip of turf is Bryan & The Haggards, led by saxophonist and West Virginia native Bryan Murray; they bring the anarchic energy of free jazz to interpretations of Merle Haggard’s oeuvre. Their third album, Merles Just Want to Have Fun, features guitarist, banjo player, and vocalist Eugene Chadbourne, an avant-garde kindred spirit. Things kick off with a rowdy version of “Fightin’ Side of Me,” which comes decked out with twisted horn lines from Murray and saxophonist Jon Irabagon; the track wraps up with an extended outburst of freewheeling cacophony. “Bob Wills Medley” provides western swing, yakety-yak sax, and choice guitar licks from Jon Lundbom. A banjos-and-vocals version of “The Way I Am” has an otherworldly folk vibe, and the closer, “That’s the News,” has plenty of pennywhistle, reverb guitar, and singing that ranges from relatively straight to goofy.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Jazz and country certainly aren’t complete strangers. Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis’s 2008 release Two Men with the Blues and the western swing of Bob Wills are two well-known examples of the genres mixing. One of the wilder modern outfits mining this strip of turf is Bryan & The Haggards, led by saxophonist and West Virginia native Bryan Murray; they bring the anarchic energy of free jazz to interpretations of Merle Haggard’s oeuvre. Their third album, Merles Just Want to Have Fun, features guitarist, banjo player, and vocalist Eugene Chadbourne, an avant-garde kindred spirit. Things kick off with a rowdy version of “Fightin’ Side of Me,” which comes decked out with twisted horn lines from Murray and saxophonist Jon Irabagon; the track wraps up with an extended outburst of freewheeling cacophony. “Bob Wills Medley” provides western swing, yakety-yak sax, and choice guitar licks from Jon Lundbom. A banjos-and-vocals version of “The Way I Am” has an otherworldly folk vibe, and the closer, “That’s the News,” has plenty of pennywhistle, reverb guitar, and singing that ranges from relatively straight to goofy.

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