Although a musical generation apart, Eugene Chadbourne and Bryan Murray both live at the unlikely crossroads of country and experimentation. Chadbourne has four decades of work behind him in country, jazz, free improv and noise in addition to harboring a longtime love for country and western music. When he’s not on tour in David Byrne’s band, saxophonist Bryan Murray leads Bryan and the Haggards with a personnel borrowed from Jon Lundbom’s Big V Chord, including Mostly Other People Do the Killing’s Moppa Elliott and Jon Irabagon.
At the invitation of Kurt Gottschalk, Chadbourne came to New York in July, 2012, to join Murray and company in a tribute to the great Merle Haggard. The resulting album Merles Just Want To Have Fun is a ridiculous spirited, lovingly raucous tribute to one of country’s greats. As with Willie Nelson, there’s a bit of jazzy sensibility to Haggard’s music. The tunes aren’t mere three-chord rockers, giving a sextet of exceptional musicians plenty to work with. And as with Nelson (Poncho to his Lefty, or the other way around), Haggard’s songs are full of character, or rebels and patriots and world-weary travelers.
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Never before has Hag’s music been given such lovingly inventive reinterpretation. To borrow a phrase from the man himself, they take a lot of pride in what they are.
“This was what I was trying to do in 1980, get a jazz band to play country and western and get a record label to pay to record it and put it out. The closest I could get to that was Shockabilly and obviously that was a sidetrack. So listening to this is really gratifying! Let’s see if anybody else likes it!” – Dr. Eugene Chadbourne