Suzy Bogguss didn’t set out to craft a Merle Haggard tribute record. Some might call that serendipity; she just calls it Lucky.
“Merle Haggard is a hell of a storyteller,” says Suzy. “When I hear his songs, I feel like I’m listening in on someone’s life.” On her new album, Lucky, a collection of songs all written by Haggard, Suzy does more than just listen—the CMA, ACM and Grammy Award-winning singer makes the country rebel’s compositions her own, reinterpreting classics like “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “Silver Wings” and “Today I Started Loving You Again” from a female point of view.
“Merle is one of the most masculine songwriters I’ve ever heard, and I’ve been watching boys cover his music for years. I just thought, ‘Why couldn’t a girl do this?’” Suzy says. “My very first song on the radio, ‘Somewhere Between,’ was a Merle Haggard song,” says Suzy, going on to explain the title of Lucky, which she produced with her husband, songwriter Doug Crider. “I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper and the word ‘lucky’ jumped out at me. I said, ‘That’s the title of the album.’ Because I feel lucky that I get to know Merle.”
Not that Lucky is a tribute album. Of that, Suzy is adamant.
“I don’t want it to be viewed that way. I had been wanting to make a record based in country and blues and I just kept thinking of great Haggard songs,” Suzy says. “Finally it just made sense to quit denying that what I really wanted was to sing an entire album of Merle songs! I have always looked to great singer/songwriters for material outside of my own. These songs are perfect for me at this time in my life. They just happen to all be written by one guy.
“I didn’t try to imitate Merle, this is my interpretation of his songs,” she continues. “Besides, Merle is still doing his own thing. He’s hard at work, and people are still lining up around the block to see him.”
“Merle’s songs were on the 8-track player in my dad’s car. Saturday nights when I would drive around with my friends, this was a part of our soundtrack. Back when country music talked about real adult problems and how we deal with them. We felt like we were eavesdropping on the secret lives of our parents,” Suzy says. “Merle’s songs feel familiar… and slightly dangerous. And there’s not a truck or a bonfire in the batch.
She hopes both her fans who have followed her since the ’90s as well as devotees of Haggard will enjoy Lucky out in February 2014.