Bryan and the Haggards: Still Alive and Kickin’ Down the Walls

[24 January 2012]

By Steve Horowitz

Weird American Music

When people think of country and jazz, they frequently consider the work of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Bryan and the Haggards perform the signature song of the Western swing band, “San Antonio Rose”, but the new band does things with it the older performers would. Bryan Murphy and company sound like they are drunkenly scatting the sounds of the instruments one minute and then play it straight the next, before launching into distorted music that could have come directly from Saturn (or at least Sun Ra).

They also perform six Merle Haggard originals and one of his more famous covers, Wynn Stewart’s bittersweet “Sing a Sad Song” and take the music to unexpected places. (It should be noted that Haggard also covered “San Antonio Rose”). This is free jazz with a sense of humor—think Frank Zappa in Bakersfield, where noises make squalls one minute and turn into a children’s melody the next. Bryan and his quartet use a piccolo and penny whistle, banjo, bass, drums and guitar—but mostly saxophones and a sense of creativity to emotively play with avant-garde aplomb. They put the country back in jazz;  that old weird American music that shares the same radical traditions.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/152839-bryan-and-the-haggards-still-alive-and-kickin-down-the-walls/