thu 14/11/2019

CD: Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard - Django and Jimmie | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard - Django and Jimmie

CD: Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard - Django and Jimmie

Country outlaws hook up to deliver incredible, enduring songs

Nelson and Haggard: 'the last of the breed'Last of the breed keep breeding

Merle and Willie – these kind of senior country summits can either be a bit of a coaster, all well and good underneath your tumbler of Bourbon, or actually something to write home about. Keep this one away from the liquor. It’s produced by Buddy Cannon, who's worked with Willie Nelson on five albums since 2008, including last year's excellent Band of Brothers, and is co-writer on four more late-period Willie Nelson tunes – small, well-turned gems that continue to make the world a better place by being here, and collaborated on by text messaging, according to an interview in The Tennessean.

Once again, Cannon chooses his musicians and arrangements sympathetically, ranging from the soft, all-acoustic opening paean of title track “Django and Jimmie”, to the TexMex blast of brass that heralds “It’s All Going to Pot”, a jokey ole-boys' spot for Willie 'n' Merle to get their lungs around.

Further in, there's a funny, heartfelt tribute to an absent friend, “Missing Ol Johnny Cash”, and Haggard puts a lifetime's experience into his own classic weepie, "Swinging Doors". Nelson empties out his pockets for the laissez-faire post-divorce philosophy of “It’s Only Money”, and they’re great together on a cover of “Don’t Think Twice” – a suitable repost to Dylan’s comments about Haggard during his recent MusiCares speech.

You could say there’s a gentle touch of self-aggrandisement and easy sentiment here and there, on "Live This Long", or the title track, for instance (we’re still a million miles from Kanye levels) with its refrain of "There'd be no Merle or Willie..", but this is Merle and Willie; they have paid the piper in full; they have earned the right. We ordinary mortals may not do it; they can.

Once again, Cannon proves a highly sympathetic dance partner as a producer, co-writer and arranger, and the band, with Mickey Raphael’s wreathes of harmonica blowing about the mix, proves a perfect fit for the intuitive, casual, on-the-backfoot delivery of these two giants trailing incredible lives wrapped in incredible, enduring songs; artists who are, to quote another Willie/Merle album (with the late Ray Price) "the last of the breed".


Overleaf: watch the making of Django and Jimmie


They’re great together on a cover of “Don’t Think Twice” – a suitable repost to Dylan’s comments about Haggard during his recent MusiCares speech


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.