• 1.
    Turnin' Off a Memory
  • 2.
    I've Got a Yearning
  • 3.
    Carolyn
  • 4.
    I'll Leave the Bottle on the Bar
  • 5.
    All Night Lady
  • 6.
    I Can't Hold Myself in Line
  • 7.
    Yesterday's News Just Hit Home T...
  • 8.
    You Don't Have Very Far to Go
  • 9.
    No More You and Me
  • 10.
    Someone Told My Story

Review

Tribute albums are part of country music's bread and butter, with artists routinely paying tribute to their favorite vocalists and songwriters through records filled with covers. Since it's such a routine event, it's easy to take them for granted, particularly when they often cover familiar ground, recycling the same hits over and over again, which is why a tribute record as sublime and subtle as Johnny Paycheck's Mr. Hag Told My Story can sometime slip through the cracks. Which is unfortunate, since this is a sterling example of what a tribute album can be. Released in 1981 as his final album for Epic -- and thereby inadvertently capping off Paycheck's prime -- Mr. Hag Told My Story finds Johnny digging through the Merle Haggard songbook, assembling ten perfect barroom ballads and then, in a great coup, recording them with the Strangers themselves, including three duets with Merle. Instead of picking predictable songs, Paycheck avoids the really big hits, choosing a bunch of lesser-known gems Haggard has penned. There are some big hits here -- "Turnin' Off a Memory" and "You Don't Have Very Far to Go" as well as the Tommy Collins-written "Carolyn," which is given a great duet -- but the emphasis is on personal favorites of Johnny and Merle. Paycheck states exactly that in the liner notes, but the performances are where he offers proof, because he and the Strangers give these a wonderful, lived-in feel, rich with emotion and graceful interplay between the band. Since there aren't many big hits here, it may have been overlooked at the time, barely scraping the country Top 40, but this perfectly executed tribute ranks not just as one of Paycheck's finest, but as one of the great late-night honky tonk records in country. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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