The final collaborative effort between outlaw country legends, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, was released in 2015 to the title of ‘Django and Jimmie’, obviously referring to Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers. At this point in their respective careers, Nelson and Haggard had certainly transcended into that same realm that these two historic figures maintain vacancy in. They undoubtedly view themselves as the elder statesmen still hanging around and not without reason as this would go on to be Haggard’s final full-length record before his death the following year. Neither Haggard or Nelson attempt to fool the listener about their ages and it’s this earnest nature that allows this record to have one foot in the realm of success.
The opening track on the record is the title track which lays bare, with refreshing honesty, the scope that this record looks through. Man, what a refreshing honesty it indeed is; this is something that outlaw country handles with ease and grace (As has been made clear on a prior piece of writing for this page, country music doesn’t typically jive well with me). There’s just no way you can’t like a track like the following track, “It’s All Going to Pot”, which is essentially the telling of how Nelson plans to spend the end of days. There’s no better way to spend it, right? Another bright moment on the record is “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash”, which even brings fellow artist Bobby Bare into the mix. Bare, obviously, known for his history as a writer of novelty tunes. This features well into the mix, considering the fact that Nelson and Haggard both possess grounded senses of humor as they relay touching lyrics about their old friend Cash. However, the most touching moment on the record is the recording of a song that Nelson wrote back in 1957, titled “Family Bible”. Haggard takes care of the vocals on this version of the track and it’s representative of what this kind of music does so well when it’s at the peak of its powers. Haggard has arguably never sounded better than he does on this track.
This is a pretty good record. The great thing about this record, as well as Nelson and Haggard, in general, is that you don’t have to the world’s biggest country music fan to like them. This music hits at a level of blunt honesty that it should be refreshing enough for just about anybody to enjoy. There really isn’t anything to dislike about this record on the full scale of things, but some of the material does grow a bit tired at certain moments throughout. It’s certainly apparent that neither Nelson or Haggard had grown tired during this recording, though, and it seemed to be, at this point, an accepted reality that as these guys age, they only got better at what they did. The older they get, the wiser they get, and the more mature and unflinchingly earnest their material becomes. These old birds had been through quite a bit in their lives up to this point and this notion seems to drive the strengths of their best material. The conviction resting in the character of this record is more than enough to keep it relevant, even when the material tends to bore a bit. Still, the very notion that these two were able to come together and record a record of this quality at this point in their careers alone is worth the price of admission.