‘Django & Jimmy’ By Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard Review: Two Old Outlaws Ride Again
The legendary team of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard have ridden together on 1983’s Pancho & Lefty which stands as one of the great duet albums of all time so it was no surprise that when they released the spiritual follow-up to their classic three days ago it was great.
The album opens with the title track, paying homage to jazz-guitar legend Django Reinhardt and the Blue Yodeler, country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers. Nelson and Haggard are clearly enjoying themselves on the track, tossing out classic Nashville country riffs while name checking a long list of musical greats. “There might not have been a Merle or Willie/ If not for a Django and Jimmie” sing the two country greats, acknowledging the rich musical history they exist within.
The pair of country greats venture outside their genre’s standards as well; “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” from Bob Dylan‘s 1963 The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is an almost island country cover to what was a previously sparse song. Tribute is also paid to The Man In Black, the late Johnny Cash by the pair of octogenarians on their infectious toe tapper “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash”. Listen all the way to the end for Nelson’s amusing anecdote about Cash’s hotel room antics.
Nelson also alludes to some things he’s not sure he’s supposed to talk about; as a pair the two singers have not been shy about their love of marijuana and the single “It’s All Going To Pot” deals with the mainstream acceptance of their constant companion.
The album ends with an endearing tribute from each singer to the other in the slow building “The Only Man Wilder Than Me,” the closing track on the album. While much of the album is rehashed country tropes that we’ve heard before like the hokey “Family Bible” or the already-pegged-as-a-classic “Unfair Weather Friend,” it’s only because of how much history these two have shared already. “Where Dreams Come To Die” is an incredibly corny song that also serves to show the exact toll that the years of whiskey swilling and pot puffing has taken on Nelson’s voice which wasn’t all that strong to begin with.
Much of the album is dealing with this lengthy history. “Live This Long” is a very self aware reflection from both singers about their “road we been running/ for the wild times” and how if they could do it again they “would’ve taken much better care of themselves/if they’da known they were gonna live this long.”
The tough living that these outlaws chose for themselves is both the inspiration behind and the curse that holds the album back. Yes, the pair are absolutely talented musicians and together they do make country gems; their best days just happen to be behind them.
Django & Jimmie is streaming now in full on Spotify.