Suzy Bogguss ends nearly every show with a cover of Merle Haggard’s “Running Kind.”
“It’s kind of representative of me,” she said with a laugh during a phone call from a string of weekend of shows in Laughlin, Nevada, in March. “I’m such a nonconfrontational person. I’d rather get in my car and take off than fight.”
The song is one of a dozen Haggard tunes Bogguss included in “Lucky,” her 2014 Haggard covers album released two years before the iconic outlaw country singer-songwriter died in 2016.
The album was never meant to be a tribute album to Haggard, with whom Bogguss had performed early in her career.
“If anything I wanted to highlight the fact that he was the most amazing songwriter,” said the 60-year-old Bogguss, who is performing with In Concert on Friday, April 21, at the Berger Center for the Performing Arts. “His songs transcend gender and generation. They were so universal, so human. Once I got into the project, I was feeling like, ‘Oh my God, I’m learning so much.’ I had always taken for granted that Merle was a great songwriter.”
She self-recorded “Lucky,” raising more than $75,000 through a Kickstarter crowd-sourcing campaign. Not long after it came out, Haggard called her.
“When he got the record, he called me and I walked around my house like a total idiot,” she recalled. “I was about to pee my pants, listening to him tell me nice things about the record and what he liked. It was just crazy. I’m just so happy he got to hear it.”
Bogguss said she slips a couple Haggard songs into her set with her trio — she’s on acoustic guitar and she has a stand-up bass player and lead guitarist — which sets out a couple weekends a month for what she calls “stripped-down guerrilla touring.”
“We fly into a city then do three or four gigs around three, or four hours apart, and then fly out,” she said; earlier this week she was at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix for two shows before coming to Tucson. From here she’s heading to Prescott for a show on Saturday, April 22.
Her concerts are heavy on the hits, including from her landmark platinum-selling 1991 album “Aces” — “Someday Soon,” “Aces,” “Letting Go,” “Outbound Plane” — and “Hey Cinderella” from her fifth album, 1993’s “Something Up My Sleeve.”
“I do those every single night and a couple other ones that did well for me on radio,” she said.
“Aces” turned 25 last year, and Bogguss marked the occasion by recording an acoustic version of the album, “Aces Redux.” She sells copies at her shows, including Friday’s Berger concert.
“When I made that record (in 1991), I actually had to fire everybody around me because nobody believed that it was a good record or that there were any singles on it,” she recalled. “I fired my agent, I fired my manager. They literally didn’t want to accept the record.”
She’s glad she didn’t listen to the naysayers; “Aces” spun off three Top 10 singles — the title track, “Letting Go” and “Outbound Plane.” For five weeks, it lived in the Top 10 country album charts and eventually sold platinum — 1 million-plus albums — which propelled Bogguss to earn the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award for promising new talent in 1992.