Despite the clear reference to bluegrass in the album title, the presence of banjo, fiddle and mandolin twang and the fact that Del McCoury is touting this release on his label as 'Merle Haggard's first-ever foray into bluegrass,' as long as Haggard is singing, writing and playing guitar, what you get is actually nothing but Hag music.
Among the celebrity guest singers and pickers on hand are Marty Stuart and Alison Krauss, the latter dueting with Haggard on an update of his classic Mama's Hungry Eyes. But really, everything put down at Ricky Skaggs's home studio in Tennessee revolves around Haggard.
These are Haggard's compositions (including the first-ever bluegrass tune to namecheck Howard Stern) and cover choices (Jimmie Rodgers and the Delmore Brothers figure prominently) and his spare arrangements, and everything moves in typically laidback Haggard time -- way slower than tempos typically associated with even the most downhearted bluegrass ballads.
Those expecting some barn-burning rips through the Bill Monroe catalogue may be in for a disappointment, but Hag fans will be relieved.