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June 17, 2010


If asked to give a one word review of the Kris Kristofferson/Merle Haggard show at the Mountain Winery last night, that would be it.


I bought tickets to the show only to see Merle. You see, Mr. Haggard is part of the essential soundtrack of my life.

Recall my earlier discussion about the task my best friend and I have undertaken? Creating our own version of "The List" for her kids (my godkids)?

We are compiling what we consider to be the music of our lives, music my beautiful godkids need to know as it tells the story of their family.

Yeah. Merle's on that list. More than once.

So the chance to see Merle live was too much to pass up.

Kris Kristofferson was just part of the ride.

The show started with Kris. Now look, I'm not actually a big fan of Kris as a performer. His voice has always been a bit warbly to my ears. However, I do acknowledge that he is one of America's premiere songwriters. His name is on many, many of the classics that help make up the tapestry of American music ("Me and Bobby McGee" is only scratching the surface).

So out strolled Kris with and acoustic guitar and a harmonica. Alone. And he played a healthy portion of his own catalog in one hour's time.

Kris seemed uncomfortable and nervous, but I found his performance immensely intriguing. He laughed when he forgot the lyrics to songs he wrote himself. He rolled his eyes when he hit a bad note on his guitar. And he laughed. It was a really engaging thing to see.

At the end he thanked the crowd for their energy.

Ok, look. Kris Kristoffereson may have just won me over to his side.

Oh, lest I forget. Before Kris left the stage, he invited up a friend. A man by the name of John Prine. Now, I was not familiar with Mr. Prine, but a quick Google led me to volumes of information about the man.

Mr Prine is also a prolific songwriter and responsible for a lot of the heart of folk music. He's also one of the writers on the song "You Never Even Call Me By My Name" made swaggeringly famous by David Allen Coe.

God, I love that song.

After Kris and John had played a tune, they invited up another friend.

A lady by the name of Joan Baez.

Yeah, look, I’m neither hippie nor baby boomer, but I was still in awe of the talent standing there together on the stage.

It was truly unforgettable.

At the break, there were ladies crying in the restroom, sharing stories of what the music of Joan Baez and John Prine meant to them.

It was less of an emotional thing for me, and more of a "whoa...I'm so proud I got to see this."

And then...

Oh and then...

Merle finally took the stage. I couldn't believe it. I might have started to cry a little bit myself.

I kept saying, "I can't believe I'm here, eight rows away from Merle Haggard!"

Ol' Merle is 73 years old and survived the removal of a malignant tumor on his right lung a couple years ago.

So he started out a bit slow, and the voice wasn't quite there.

But he warmed up nicely. Soon enough, he was bringing the heat to songs like "Momma Tried" and "Big City".

Merle started out the night with "Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star" and sailed through his own songbook, ending with "Oakie from Muskogee."

He invited Kris, John and Joan to come up and join him for that last one.

As The Good Man and I first got to the venue and we had to navigate all the Mercedes driving, wine sipping, self-entitled looking Northern California people, I texted my best friend that it was times like this where I question why I ever moved to California.

By the end of the night, looking at four legends of American music on one stage, I remembered. Back in my growing up years in New Mexico, it was unlikely we'd get a show like that. I moved to California for the art, the music, the creativity that runs through the Bay Area.

The kind of place where Joan Baez is just sitting in the audience and is casually invited up on stage.

So ok.

I used The Good Man's iPhone to capture about 30 seconds of video. The image is terrible but the sound is all right. This is the last 30 seconds of the show, Joan, John and Kris are gathered together at the left. Merle is in the middle.

They are all warbling and off key and Joan's mic is too loud...and still...it's a beautiful moment in time....

(may have to double click the box below to get it to play, click again to stop)

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
All content of Oh Fair New Mexico by Karen Fayeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.