Country greats impart 159 years of collective wisdom
It might be over 30 years since their 1983 smash Pancho & Lefty, but at the age of 81 and 78 respectively country music’s Statler and Waldorf sound as engaged, energetic and mischievous as ever, if a little dewy-eyed at times.
The opening title track is a lovely, lilting hymn to the pair’s formative influences, and thereafter nostalgia is rarely far away. On Haggard’s “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” the duo reminisce warmly over a lively chick-a-boom backing, though thankfully they refuse to whitewash over the dark side of the Man In Black, who “carried his pills in a brown paper sack”. Elsewhere, there’s a nod to Bob Dylan on a jaunty version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”.
As well as doffing their Stetsons to their peers, they raise a glass to one another. Haggard sings Nelson’s classic “Family Bible”, Willie returns the favour on “Somewhere Between”, and they croon together on Hag’s peerless “Swinging Doors”. Of the handful of bespoke new songs, highlights include the excellent title track and the greased-up truck-stop boogie of “It’s All Going To Pot”, which has plenty fun portraying Nelson as a trailblazer for stoner culture.
The pair kick up a similar kind of hot fuss on the driving “It’s Only Money”, one of four tracks Nelson co-wrote with producer Buddy Cannon. The other three – “Alice In Hulaland”, “Where Dreams Come To Die” and “Driving The Herd” – are fine and strong, but it’s Haggard who delivers an ace with “The Only Man Wilder Than Me”, a hymn to their combined 159 years spent “on a lifelong spree”.
Much like the rest of Django And Jimmie, it’s a vibrant argument for the benefits of ornery misadventure. Nelson sings like a canary and plays like a dream, Haggard growls like a grizzled jailbird, and everyone seems to be having a blast. Long may they roll and run.