The Hagers – The Complete Capitol Albums
This Chicago duo gained fame as singers/comedians through appearances on the popular CBS TV show Hee Haw (1969-86). Discovered & signed by Buck Owens at Disneyland the twin brothers James (d. May 2008) & John (d. January 9, 2009) had a pleasant Kingston Trio-Everly Brothers vocalizing style that produced some chart singles (1969-1975). Their highest appearance was #9 with Buck Owens’ song “Gotta Get to Oklahoma (‘Cause California’s Gettin’ to Me).”
The 3 albums represented are their first 2 (1969) – The Hagers, & Two Hagers Are Better Than One. The 3rd (1970) Motherhood, Apple Pie & the Flag were all released on Capitol Records. The songs while a bit retro for 2022 is all well-recorded songs. Pristine musicianship that follows a Buck Owens tradition. “I’m Not Going Back To Jackson,” & “Give It Time” have lift & energy. The songs compiled are surprisingly not as country hokey as one would expect.
“I Don’t Wanna Make It,” from the first is a bright & aggressively catchy tune. The 1st & 2nd LP were originally produced by Ken Nelson & the 3rd by Mississippi Earl Bell.
The songs are far from cliché-driven novelty tunes. Many are serious & approached with luster. This single CD retrospective of 30 tracks on the 74-minute CD The Complete Capitol Albums (Drops July 22–Omnivore) is for those with taste leans toward a Buck Owens California-style country ideal. This is an old-fashioned country music lovers motherlode. A little rockier with an Everly Brothers thrust is “Goin’ Home To Your Mother,” “I’m Miles Away,” “Four Strong Winds,” & “Back on the Road Again,” all especially hot. Great vocals & the acoustic guitars sparkle.
Their image is the issue. The brothers are too clean-cut, too proper & collegiate. Fine for mainstream America in 1970 but in the country arena? That may be the reason their ambitious music didn’t grip the Tony Lama-booted, bandana-wearing country fanatic. They weren’t as cool as gypsy-hippie Willie Nelson or dangerous as Johnny Cash.
But “Gamblin’ Man,” is a scorcher. The quality of their work is evident. While their appearance isn’t rooted in incipient coolness (they appear to be the country music’s Smothers Brothers) their choice of material (Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Randy Sparks, Steve Gillette, Ian Tyson, Michael Martin Murphey, John D. Loudermilk & Bob Dylan) were wise choices.
Their originals (“Flowers Need Sun, Too”) were inspired. Their style while vintage-country was just an inch from country & western. “I’m Jesse James,” & “Loony Caboose” is about as close to novelty they get but — still worth a listen. “Caboose” has some hot fiddle playing. It’s 70s country music but among such legendary singers as John Denver at that time — this duo was gifted.
The compilation was assembled by the Buck Owens Private Foundation & courtesy of the Owens Family.
Photos courtesy of Buck Owens Private Foundation. Compilation produced: Randy Poe & Cheryl Pawelski.
CD @ Amazon + http://omnivorerecordings.com/the-hagers/