If I Could Only Fly

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If I Could Only Fly
If I Only Could Fly.jpg
Studio album by Merle Haggard
Released October 10, 2000
Genre Country
Length 35:45
Label ANTI-/Epitaph
Merle Haggard chronology
1996
(1996)
If I Could Only Fly
(2000)
Cabin in the Hills
(2001)

If I Could Only Fly is a studio album by American country singer Merle Haggard, released in 2000. The title song was written by Texas songwriter Blaze Foley. It reached number 26 on the Billboard Country albums chart.[1]

Background[edit]

The nineties had been the most trying decade of Haggard's professional life. Besought with financial woes that lead to bankruptcy in 1993, Haggard had also run afoul with his record label boss Mike Curb. Since 1990, Haggard had released three albums on Curb and all three had charted lower than any had in his thirty-year career, with the last of them, 1996, not charting at all. Personally, Haggard had been doing much better; he had kicked the drug and alcohol problems which had plagued him for much of the eighties and had married his fifth wife Teresa Lane in 1993. In 1995, he had been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, but when his contract with Curb expired he signed with the independent ANTI- label.[2] The move paid immediate dividends both critically and artistically; no longer compelled to compete for airplay on country radio with a fashionable hit single, the album focused on Haggard's strengths—his singing and songwriting—and wound up rising to number 26 on the Hot Country Album Chart, his highest showing since 1987's Chill Factor. Critics were nearly unanimous in their praise for the album, which remained on the charts for twenty-seven weeks.

"(Think About a) Lullaby," was written by Haggard and his wife Teresa. The album's title track had been previously recorded by Haggard with Willie Nelson on their 1987 duet album Seashores of Old Mexico.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars [1]
Robert Christgau (A-)[3]
Pitchfork Media ( 7.6/10)[4]

Comparing If I Could Only Fly favorably to Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind, Ryan Kearney of Pitchfork writes, "in listening to their reflections on aging and the accompanying doubts, we can learn how to face our own mortality with greater equanimity and fewer regrets."[4] Ben Ratliff of Rolling Stone gave the album 4 stars, enthusing, "...what a lyricist he still can be. All the songs emanate from a single persona, an aging, cloistered singer (Haggard is in his sixties) whose routine—avoiding drugs, taking comfort from cushioned bus seats, being honest with his kids — is all he has". Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote: "If I Could Only Fly is the first album in years that deserves to be compared to Haggard's classic work."[1] Music critic Robert Christgau wrote "After a long, dispiriting string of releases that gradually devolved from hit-or-miss to cynical, he comes out of nowhere on a punk label to cut one of the very best albums of his very uneven recording career."[3]

Track listing[edit]

All songs by Merle Haggard unless otherwise noted:

  1. "Wishing All These Old Things Were New" – 3:20
  2. "Honky Tonky Mama" (Haggard, Traditional) – 3:07
  3. "Turn to Me" – 3:10
  4. "If I Could Only Fly" (Blaze Foley) – 4:59
  5. "Crazy Moon" (Haggard, Max Barnes) – 2:07
  6. "Bareback" – 2:12
  7. "(Think About A) Lullaby" (Haggard, Theresa Lane Haggard) – 2:24
  8. "I'm Still Your Daddy" – 2:54
  9. "Proud to Be Your Old Man" (Haggard, Abe Manuel, Jr.) – 2:26
  10. "Leavin's Getting Harder" – 2:10
  11. "Thanks to Uncle John" – 2:43
  12. "Listening (To the Wind)" – 4:10

Personnel[edit]

  • Merle Haggard – vocals, guitar
  • Biff Adams – drums
  • Eddie Curtis – bass
  • Floyd Domino – piano
  • Norm Hamlet – steel guitar
  • Abe Manuel, Jr. – guitar, fiddle, mandolin, percussion, piano, accordion, harp, harmony vocals
  • Joe Manuel – guitar
  • Randy Mason – guitar
  • Oleg Schramm – piano
  • Redd Volkaert – guitar
  • Don Markham – saxophone, harmony vocals

Production notes:

  • Lou Bradley – engineer, mixing
  • Jesse Fischer – art direction, design
  • Johnny Whiteside – liner notes

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2000) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums 26
U.S. Billboard Independent Albums 10

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "If I Could Only Fly > Review". Allmusic. Retrieved February 22, 2015. 
  2. ^ Cantwell, David (2013). Merle Haggard: The Running Kind. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-71771-8. 
  3. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "If I Could Only Fly > Review". Robert Christgau. Retrieved February 22, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Kearney, Ryan. "If I Could Only Fly > Review". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved February 22, 2015.