Merle Haggard’s second album, Swinging Doors, is a perfect country music album. My biggest complaint about popular music generally and country music specifically is how fake it is. And I suppose that’s true of Haggard too. I mean, the man was born in Bakersfield, California. Yet listen to that accent he affects in his songs. And yet, it seems entirely authentic coming from him.
(To be fair, Elvis Costello sang with a distinctly American accent on his first few albums. I don’t think it was affected. I think it was just the result of listening to American singers. I assume the same thing was going on with Haggard.)
My favorite song on Swinging Doors has always been “The Bottle Let Me Down,” because its funny and I love country drinking songs more than anything. But arguably, the strongest song is the title song, which is about the exact same thing. And it includes a very clever refrain, “I’m always here at home till closing time.”
It’s kind of funny that I love these kinds of songs, because I’m not like that at all. Unless a drug puts me to sleep, it only makes me more introspective. This is why I hate cannabis. I don’t need a drug that encourages me to consider everything I’ve ever done in the most negative way possible. If I had to live in the state of mind that cannabis brings out in me, I would have killed myself decades ago.
Admittedly, alcohol does not make me self-critical. Instead, it makes me more accepting. But that wouldn’t be a good thing in dealing with a break-up. Just the same, the way that Merle Haggard tells the story in “Swinging Doors” strikes me as exactly what I would be like. And that does make it hilarious. But only in a fictional setting. In real life, it’s just pathetic.