Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard are unquestioned country music royalty. Nelson, 82, and Haggard, 78, have been making music professionally for more than a century combined — Willie’s debut album dropped in 1962, with Merle following in 1965 — and neither of the outlaw country pioneers show any signs of slowing down.
Nelson and Haggard teamed up for the first time in 1983 for the remarkable “Pancho and Lefty” and damn if they haven’t done it again some 32 years later with latest collaboration “Django and Jimmie.” The album gets its title from Willie and Merle’s childhood idols Django Reinhart and Jimmie Rodgers. “Both of those guys were very influential in both of our careers,” Haggard says.
“Django and Jimmie” is 14 cuts of sonic bliss. The title track opens the 47-minute set and Willie and Merle also pay tribute to an old pal on “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash.” The goodwill extends to each other, as well, with Willie covering Merle’s “Somewhere Between” and Merle covering Willie’s “Family Bible.” Together, they deliver an impressive rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Additional keepers include “Live This Long,” “Alice in Hulaland,” “Swinging Doors” and “The Only Man Wilder Than Me.” There’s even a tongue-in-cheek ode to marijuana in “It’s All Going to Pot.” This is some terrific stuff from a pair of living legends. (Jeffrey Sisk)