Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard
“Django and Jimmie”
When you think back to classic country music, there are a few names that jump out at you. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings all come to mind, but it is Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard that are my favorites of that era. When I heard this new album was coming out, it was a no-brainer that I would want to review it.
This is their first reunion in the studio since their smash hit “Pancho & Lefty” came out in 1983. It is chock full of wisdom, humor, storytelling, and that classic country sound that they helped define. There are lots of references to changing times and the way it used to be, done with tongue firmly in cheek at times.
It opens with the title track “Django and Jimmie”, paying tribute to a couple of their old time heroes: Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers. It really sets the tone for the whole album, which is full of appreciation for the past and their roots.
“It’s All Going to Pot” is a not-so-subtle double-entendre about both how the world is going to hell in a hand basket, and how they intend to keep smoking up on the way down: “I got a hundred dollar bill, you can keep your pills, ‘cause it’s all goin’ to pot”.
They’ve got a great tribute to the man in black with “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash”. It’s a lighthearted, upbeat number commemorating the legend of outlaw country. They tell stories about his legacy, his music, and his antics.
One of my favorite numbers on this album is “Live This Long”. It’s a ballad reflecting on the passage of time and choices made long ago. “We’d have taken much better care of ourselves if we’d a known we’d live this long”. It’s a touching sentiment, and the music helps tell the stories.
There’s a great rendition of the classic Bob Dylan tune “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”. They bring in a country-shuffle rhythm, and their voices fit this classic so well. While many others have covered this song and added their own twists, Willie and Merle stay pretty true to the original while adding a little bit of country flavor.
There are many more songs I could mention – the album is solid from front to back. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard exhibit their wisdom, songwriting, and classic sound like no one else. It’s great to hear such icons of music history still cranking out hits and inspiring us with their insight and music.
Tom Matthew, Two Ton Music