New releases by Saxon, The Dustbowl Revival, and a Merle Haggard tribute 

Weekly music roundup.

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO.
  • Courtesy photo.

Saxon
St. George’s Day Sacrifice: Live in Manchester
UDR

We love the tight pants-clad metal of British veterans Saxon as much as the next guy, but, 35 years or so into the band’s career, you have to wonder what value there is in a live album recorded on the most recent tour. It seems like every six months, Saxon puts out a compilation album, a reissue or a live record. There are only so many versions of “Never Surrender,” “Wheels of Steel,” “Strong Arm of the Law,” and “Denim and Leather” that anybody needs, and the ones on this live effort are hardly definitive. Not dreadful, but your money is better spent elsewhere.   

The Dustbowl Revival
Carry Me Home
Self-released 

When you think of Venice, Calif., bluegrass music is unlikely to be the first thing to enter your mind. Blue sea, Muscle Beach, and scantily clad dudes on roller blades, maybe, but not authentic and beautiful gospel-blues-bluegrass. The Dustbowl Revival is atypical for that area, and the band should be commended for breaking the mold. In fact The LA Weekly called these guys the “Best Live Band in L.A.” The album is fantastic, opening with a slow-build, muddy version of “Swing Low,” and getting frantic with the fiddles by the time “New River Train” rolls around.   

Various Artists
Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard
Broken Bow

Merle Haggard is without question one of the all-time greats of country music. Haggard has always cared more for poignant, meaningful lyrics than brand-new cowboy boots and all that Garth Brooks showmanship. When people refer to country as “white man’s blues,” they’re probably thinking about the likes of Merle. This album is a nice enough idea, but, really, why would you want to hear Randy Houser sing “Misery and Gin” when the original is infinitely better? Ditto Brooks’ “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down.” Haggard is a man who deserves a tribute, but this album falls short.   

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