The Running Kind: Listening to Merle Haggard (American Music Series)
Merle Haggard enjoyed numerous artistic and professional triumphs, including more than a hundred country hits (thirty-eight at number one), dozens of studio and live album releases, upwards of ten thousand concerts, induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and songs covered by artists as diverse as Lynryd Skynyrd, Elvis Costello, Tammy Wynette, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Willie Nelson, the Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan.
In The Running Kind, a new edition that expands on his earlier analysis and covers Haggard's death and afterlife as an icon of both old-school and modern country music, David Cantwell takes us on a revelatory journey through Haggard’s music and the life and times out of which it came. Covering the breadth of his career, Cantwell focuses especially on the 1960s and 1970s, when Haggard created some of his best-known and most influential music: songs that helped invent the America we live in today. Listening closely to a masterpiece-crowded catalogue (including “Okie from Muskogee,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Mama Tried,” and “Working Man Blues,” among many more), Cantwell explores the fascinating contradictions—most of all, the desire for freedom in the face of limits set by the world or self-imposed—that define not only Haggard’s music and public persona but the very heart of American culture.
Praise for The Running Kind: Listening to Merle Haggard (American Music Series)
Cantwell captures why Haggard's best-known songs still matter while never shying away from honest critiques of weaker selections that never made it into the classic country canon. Ultimately, this warts-and-all look at a half-century-spanning back catalog gives its subject his due.
— Wide Open Country
Sharp-eyed and sharp-eared insight...abounds in [Cantwell's] book...The Running Kind paints Merle Haggard in a broad and nuanced American cultural landscape, rather than the tight corners that Nixon, the counterculture, country fans, and Haggard himself frequently painted him into.
— New York Journal of Books
If you want to read the definitive book on Merle Haggard, this is the one...The beauty of Cantwell’s book lies in his in-depth, astute, and entertaining close readings of Hag’s songs and the covers of those songs by others, from Dylan to Bobby 'Blue' Bland.
— No Depression
A remarkable book by one of Merle's most astute scholars.
— Lawyers, Guns & Money
In essays on the songs, eras and influences that shaped Haggard’s life and legacy, Cantwell makes a case for Haggard's genius not by leaving out the contradictions that are evident in his work, but by shining a light on them.