This 1985 performance of Merle Haggard and his swinging Strangers -- with a two-piece horn section that sounds like five -- were in fine form at Austin City Limits. There are 15 tunes on Live from Austin, TX many of them barn burners. It opens with "The Okie from Muskogee's Comin' Home," a fine choice since it's not a novelty song. Haggard sticks to his own material most of the time, and he rambles over it, pulling from classics like "Mama Tried" and "Silver Wings," to newer material from the MCA and Epic periods -- which were creatively fertile times for him. An example is in the lovely "What Am I Gonna Do (With the Rest of My Life)," the fourth tune in the set. But there are more, too, in "Place to Fall Apart" and "I Wish Things Were Simple Again." There are two Tommy Duncan tunes here, where Haggard pays homage to his first real influence, Bob Wills -- "Misery," "Take Me Back to Tulsa," and one by Wills , as well as "Ida Red." Thankfully, a great version of Johnny Durrill 's "Misery and Gin" is here from Back to the Barrooms , as is the wonderful closer, Haggard 's own "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink," to take the thing out on the right note. It's true most could have lived without his pseudo-orchestral paean to xenophobic political values, "Amber Waves of Grain," but it wouldn't be a complete show without an accurate portrayal of the songwriter and the man. Haggard fans will dig this one just fine.

Merle Haggard - Live From Austin TX '78Merle Haggard - Live From Austin TX '78Merle Haggard - Live From Austin TX '78Merle Haggard - Live From Austin TX '78