Hag Records With Keith, In Talks With Capitol

Country legend Merle Haggard plans to record a pair of duets with Toby Keith this week...

Country legend Merle Haggard plans to record a pair of duets with Toby Keith this week, with one of the songs tapped to appear on Keith's next DreamWorks studio album or an upcoming best-of set. The other will appear on a new Haggard album, which looks likely to mark the artist's return to Capitol Records.

After a few singles releases on the tiny Tally label, Haggard signed to Capitol in 1965, and the label released his debut album, "Strangers." The set included the track "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers," which reached No. 10 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart.

According to a statement from Haggard's own Hag Records, negotiations between the country music outlaw icon and Capitol are in the final stages. In March, Capitol released the two-disc Haggard compilation "40 #1 Hits," which peaked at No. 60 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart.

James Stroud is producing the unnamed track for Keith's album, while Haggard coaxed retired producer/music executive Jimmy Bowen to produce several tracks, including the unspecified Keith collaboration, for his Capitol return. Composer Mike Post is co-producing the sessions at his Burbank, Calif., studio.

"I just love Haggard," Bowen says. "I'm not really out of retirement -- I'm doing this while in retirement."

The Keith compilation "Greatest Hits 2" is due Nov. 9. The set will include the new single "Stays in Mexico," but it is unknown if the Haggard duet will surface there or on his next studio album. "Mexico" is No. 23 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

Haggard's most recent studio album is last year's "Haggard Like Never Before," released on the Hag label through Compendia. The set debuted at No. 40 on the Top Country Albums tally.