My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Merle Haggard – ‘5:01 Blues’

Merle_Haggard_-_5-01_Blues5:01 Blues was Merle Haggard’s final album for Epic Nashville, released in 1989. This distinction couldn’t come a moment too soon as relations between Haggard and the label had been breaking down for some time.

Despite the tensions, four singles were released from the album. The title track, a workingman’s anthem, peaked at #18. “If you want to be My Woman,” a mid-tempo honky-tonker, stalled at #23. The traditionally minded “Broken Friend” became Haggard’s first single to fail to chart. Through it all he did manage one final top 5, the horn-drenched ballad “A Better Love Next Time,” which hit #4.

Haggard had a hand in writing or co-writing the majority of the ten tracks on 5:01 Blues. The ballads “Wouldn’t That Be Somethin’” and “A Thousand Lies Ago” are unremarkable at best and fail to have any qualities that would render them memorable. “Somewhere Down The Line” and “Someday We’ll Know” are better, with steel and fiddle throughout, although they’re really just more of the same.

5:01 Blues is a terrible album, wrought with Haggard’s complete lack of inspiration. It’s as if he gave up, and tried to pull the wool over our eyes. He’s better than this.

Grade: C

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2 responses to “Album Review: Merle Haggard – ‘5:01 Blues’

  1. Paul W Dennis May 21, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    It is always interesting to read someone else’s take on an album. Most of the younger reviewers seem to have less interest in jazz than I do.

    I wouldn’t regard 5:01 BLUES as a great album but “terrible” is not a word I’d use to describe it, I don’t think I’d even use “mediocre”.

    I do agree that the production is a little too slick for Haggard’s voice (please spare me the organ and synthesizer !) but the album contains a number of really good songs including “5:01 Blues” , “A Better Love Next Time” and “Losin’ In Las Vegas” (which should have been a single). In fact the production is the only real complaint I have about this album, and even the production has some highpoints in the instrumentation – I’ve really learned to love Don Markham’s (sax & trumpet) contribution to the Merle Haggard sound.

    “If You Want To Be My Woman” was reprised from Merle’s 1967 Capitol album I’M A LOMESOME FUGITIVE, It is interesting to compare and contrast the two versions. Merle’s voice was better in 1967 but he was a more nuanced singer in 1989.

    When this album came out I regarded it as decent, but with repeated listening over the last 25+ years I’ve gained a deeper appreciation of the album – C+ (production) / B+ (performance)

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