Merle Haggard, ‘Working in Tennessee’ (Vanguard)
“If you find yourself in lockup, write a song about a jail,” Merle Haggard croons on “Laugh It Off,” sounding like he just sneaked out of the drunk tank. His greatest skill remains how convincingly he stands in, and stands up, for regular guys, even when he’s coasting. Working in Tennessee glides along on its Bakersfield groove with the greatest of ease, despite the album’s title. The Jimmy Buffett–styled “Down on the Houseboat” nearly ruins the mood, but when Hag’s wife, Theresa, stops by to help him fire up Johnny and June’s “Jackson,” all is forgiven.