Okie from Muskogee: Anniversary Edition

Despite the title, this is a double-disc twofer of Haggard’s late-60s live albums Okie from Muskogee and The Fightin’ Side of Me, neither including the hit studio version of the title track. Cut in the eponymous Oklahoma town while its namesake single was still riding the charts, Okie from Muskogee is a fine representation of the young Haggard’s authoritative performing chops and the soulful expertise of his longstanding combo the Strangers. It’s also a nice showcase for his rapport with his working-class fan base, which peaked with “Okie from Muskogee.” The anthemic hit’s embrace of silent-majority values struck a chord in the culturally-polarized late ’60s, but seems less a statement of its author’s preferences than a manifestation of his instinctive affinity for the underdog. The classics-packed set list — “Silver Wings,” “Swinging Doors,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Branded Man” — demonstrates the remarkable depth that his songbook had already attained, yet pauses long enough for the artist to be presented with the key to the city. The Fightin’ Side of Me follows the same model, building a sterling live set around another rabble-rousing hit. In contrast to “Okie”’s relatively gentle, resigned tone, though, “Fightin’” flirts with kneejerk jingoism. But the material that surrounds it — including several classic covers, plus a goofy vocal-impersonations medley and a reprise of “Okie” — shows where Haggard’s heart really lies. — SCOTT SCHINDER

LSM-GetItNow-large copy