This tension between persona and personhood can be seen in choosing genuinely moving, intimate story-songs over the greatest hits. This choice is deepened by how the album finds a place where the roughness of Oldham's voice pushes into a lush, jazz-inflected production.
But the most surprising thing is how Oldham handles Haggard's autobiographical themes, especially in the songs "Haggard" and "Leonard." Oldham's recording of "Leonard," an intricate tale of someone who became famous under a pseudonym, and who got in trouble trying to play both names against the middle, is a dazzling house of mirrors: Oldham playing Bonnie 'Prince' Billy playing Palace Brothers playing Haggard the writer playing Haggard playing the performer, singing a song whose subject itself is pseudonymous. How he sings Haggard is really Oldham telling us what he got from country music, placing himself within the genre. (Johnny Cash might have placed him there first, with his recording of "I See A Darkness.")
Though it might seem strange that Oldham recorded the first major tribute to Haggard, the careful and well-thought-out working through of the master's themes makes deliberate sense. (Drag City)