Willie Nelson is a lot like Lil John for me in the sense that I prefer him when he appears on other people’s albums rather than listening to his albums. Merle Haggard on the other hand, I could listen to Merle on repeat forever. Django & Jimmie marks the sixth time these two have collaborated on an album and I think the pairing is perfect. Nelson’s nasally delivery is the perfect juxtaposition to Merle’s classically smooth vocal delivery.
The albums title track is a tribute song to Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers that doubles as a mood setter for the over arching theme of the album. An album that, despite taking some 18 months to write and included Merle and Willie co-writing songs via telephone was recorded in a mere 3 days.
The overarching theme of Django & Jimmie is friendship. Friends lost as highlighted in, “Missing Old Johnny Cash” which features an appearance by Bobby Bare Jr. Friends you know you can always count on as highlighted in Merle and Willie’s song to one another, “Unfair Weather Friend.” Friends mutual admiration as shown when they each cover one another; Willie with “Somewhere Between” and Merle with “Family Bible.” All with the backdrop of reality that says Willie and Merle are 80 and 78 respectively and there are a limited number of days ahead of them. A sentiment you can feel in Haggard penned, “The Only Man Wilder The Me,” and acknowledged with a tip of the proverbial hat in “Live This Long.”
One thing that comes across on Django & Jimmie is the complete comfort these two legends of country music have with one another. A comfort that can only be achieved by decades together and a few alcohol, weed and cocaine fueled tales. Another thing listening to this album really drives home and that’s how completely vapid modern country music has become and how it really doesn’t have to be. Like my buddy over at Farce The Music says, “Put The Try Back In Country Music.” Well, to country stalwarts did and managed to make an Essential Listening album in the process.