Certain Songs #1129: Merle Haggard – “Skid Row”

Album: Down Every Road
Year: 1962

Merle Haggard is another one of those artists where I spent years and years figuring that I’d get around to him eventually, but it took his death a couple of years ago for me to finally dig out the Down Every Road box set and see what I’d been missing all these years.

Turns out, quite a lot, and honestly, I’m still working my way through it, but it was clear that Merle Haggard pretty much had his thing in mind from the very start.

One of the very first things — if not the very first thing — that Merle Haggard ever recorded, “Skid Road” was recorded in Bakersfield just a couple of miles away from where my grandparents lived, and it encapsulates pretty much everything that made him great: sparse, guitar-driven arrangements, over which his crystal-clear voice sings words about a man whose life has taken a turn for the worse.

Well not long ago I was a happy man
Money in my pockets with the rings on my hands
My money’s all gone and I’m feelin’ low
Standin’ on the corner of Skid Row

What’s so cool about “Skid Row” is Haggard doesn’t sound very down-and-out when he’s singing it: the beat is uptempo, the backing vocals playful and Haggard himself seeming almost joyous to be there. In the end you can practically see him moving from the corner of Skid Row towards the inner depths.

“Skid Row”

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2 Responses to “Certain Songs #1129: Merle Haggard – “Skid Row””

  1. bruno says:

    Hi Jim! ran into your blog after looking up Space is Deep by Hawkwind and subsequently into this post. I actually saw Merle Haggard live, he was great! I actually got my own song project going on: a minizine i make at work called 6 Song I Recently Heard. I kinda wish i had done “Thee Infinite Playlist” like how you’re doing Certain Songs, because I’m digging it!

  2. Jim Connelly says:

    Hi Bruno,

    Thanks a lot for your kind words. I definitely now wish I’d gotten into Hag before he died.

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