Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson

Has “freedom” ever fallen out of fashion in America? Short answer: No. But during the past height of Bushmania, there’s no question it came dangerously close. That’s what makes this pairing of Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson so potent. Having served for armed robbery in San Quentin during the late ’50s, Haggard learned to appreciate freedom—meaning its absence—from an early age. Prison is bound to change your perspective, as it surely did Haggard’s music. He’s a no-bullshit artist whose songbook is quintessentially American: sometimes liberal, sometimes conservative, always confusing. Kristofferson, on the other hand, has never been in prison (instead, he was a Rhodes Scholar). But he’s spent his entire musical career exploring what it means to be free in America. His 1969 debut gave us one of the finer lyrics on the matter (“Freedom ain’t worth nothin’, but it’s free”, from “Me and Bobby McGee”), and his latest album, This Old Road, maintains that blunt, clear-headed outlook. Most would agree that both men are living legends, but only Haggard is considered a giant of American music. If anything, this tour should offer proof that Kristofferson is at least on his way to being one, as well. BRIAN J. BARR

Fri., April 3, 8 p.m., 2009

 
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