As international music icons go, Merle Haggard is kind of a weird one. He's an ex-con who writes immortal pop poetry ("Tonight the bottle let me down/And let your memory come around."). He's antiwar, pro-hick, and famously frowns on longhairs. One of his latest songs includes a few misty-eyed lines about the lasting allure of cocaine, while the decades-old "Piedras Negras" is romantically antiracist. So he's all over the place politically. We're not even sure it's possible to agree with Haggard, but hopefully, that's not why country and Western music the Bakersfield sound, especially appeals to you in the first place. Last time we saw the Hag, he was headlining Oakland's Paramount Theatre (Anti- labelmate Neko Case was the most perfect opening act ever.) He owned the stage fifty ways, sounded beautiful, looked great, and was in general instantly recognizable as a transcendent, world-class performer. The jingoism pervading his merch table won't appeal to all of us, particularly the "America First" bumper stickers, but if you want to hear "Silver Wings" and "Mama Tried," it's a small price to pay.
Mon., Feb. 11, 8 p.m., 2008