Django & Jimmie by Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard
It’s with a heavy heart that I pen this review of “Django & Jimmie,” because sadly, Merle Haggard passed away just two months ago, and if our lives are comparable to seasons, Willie Nelson is firmly gripped by the arthritic hands of winter. Nelson and Haggard witnessed some of the greatest moments country music has ever seen – Johnny Cash’s performance at San Quentin in 1958, for example – and most of those occurred more than 50 years ago. In another 50 years, will there be a single star from the current charts who will have built a legacy tangible enough to create a new, original album in their eighties? I fear not.
Regardless of the trends in modern music, “Django & Jimmie” is a relevant and remarkable album that dares to remind us that these two are veteran musicians. This album shows us why being absorbed with the “next big thing” and trends that come and go is not to our benefit, and it may reintroduce a new generation to classic country.
The title track is a fun one, as is “It’s All Going to Pot,” but the true standout here is “Unfair Weather Friend,” which is reminiscent of a time when music was good for more than a one-time listen. Truthfully, Nelson’s and Haggard’s voices show their age – each a bit more gravelly and a tad more wizened than in decades past – but rather than being a distraction, it’s charming. The styling is appropriate and the instrumentals are nothing but classic country, without an EDM beat or synthesizer in sight.
“Where Dreams Come to Die,” aside from being one of the strongest tracks, is evidence that Willie Nelson can still write a good song 50-plus years after he penned “Crazy” for Patsy Cline. That, right there, is something to be noted.
Although some have said that “Django & Jimmie” could have done with a few more serious moments in place of the lighter, less substantial material, I sincerely disagree. Nelson and Haggard have earned the right to record and perform whatever they please, and this album reflects the essence of these legends.
This album is of very real importance, because these two are country music’s giants. They are the roots, the foundation, of a genre that has become almost unrecognizable of late, yet in an unpredictable and dynamic industry, they have remained where they began. It’s a good thing that “Django & Jimmie” has seen the light of day, because there may not be an adequate replacement for talent and legacy of this magnitude in generations to come. They may truly be the last outlaws.