Never one to shy away from a good cover tune, Will Oldham is kicking things up a notch for his latest album as Bonnie "Prince" Billy. Come May 5, he'll be releasing a full-fledged tribute album to late country great Merle Haggard via Drag City.
The album comes bearing the title Best Troubador and finds Oldham covering 16 classics by Haggard, who passed away in 2016. Along with Oldham, it features a backing band going under the name of Bonafide United Musicians, which includes Van Campbell, Nuala Kennedy, Danny Kiley, Drew Miller, Cheyenne Mize and Chris Rodahoffer, with special guests Mary Feiock, Emmett Kelly, A.J. Roach and Matt Sweeney.
They originally planned to record the album all big and proper in Nashville but instead did the recordings at home, "capturing feeling, memory, and new expression in familiar confines," according to a press release.
The press release goes on to say this of the collection:
The songs sung on Best Troubador are pulled from all over — from Haggard's 3rd album in 1967 though to his 47th in 2011 — but this is no simple hits compilation. Capable only of occupying a shared space between himself and Merle Haggard, Bonny chose personal favorites to find Merle and himself together in the music. Moving from 1978 to 1969 to 2003 to 1981 and so on allows the album to circle Haggard's music in a simulation of thought and memory, slipping around from spot to spot as if they were discrete impressions, unknown but knowable yet.
It also adds: "Dedicated to new life and old, Best Troubadour is wistful and bittersweet, for the triumph of a life spent in unending pursuit of the goal: new and expressive music, as our inspirations and heroes once sang it."
For a taste of what the album has in store, you can watch a new VR video for its "Mama Tried" underneath the tracklist below. You can also pre-order the record here.
1. The Fugitive
2. I'm Always on a Mountain When I Fall
3. The Day the Rains Came
4. Haggard (Like I've Never Been Before)
5. I Always Get Lucky With You
7. My Old Pal
8. Roses in the Winter
9. Some of Us Fly
10. Wouldn't That Be Something
12. That's the Way Love Goes
13. Nobody's Darling
14. What I Hate (excerpt)
15. I Am What I Am
16. If I Could Only Fly