[19 July 2010]
One might think that free jazz and the Bakersfield sound have little in common, but Bryan and the Haggards tear that myth apart with the band’s wild and woolly approach to the music of Merle. The seven-song EP, Pretend It’s the End of the World, takes country music to places usually inhabited by the likes of Ornette Coleman with fierce improvisations and outrageous inventiveness. The twin saxophone attacks of tenor Bryan Murray and alto Jon Lundborn discordantly blast the jets off the airplane on Haggard’s lonesome lament “Silver Wings”, and the five-piece band takes “Working Man’s Blues” far beyond where the hammer hits the spike. The music can be crazily melodic, especially on “Miss the Mississippi and You,” a tune Jimmie Rodgers made popular, but which Haggard best interpreted on his paean to the Singing Brakeman. Bryan and the Haggards also turn “All of Me Belongs to Me” into a drunken polka, complete with scat accompaniment. This is the music that plays inside a drunken cowpoke’s head after he’s had one too many at that urban dive.