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Critics' Choice
WILLIE AND MERLE AND DJANGO AND JIMMIE
6/4/15

One guy's in his 80s and one in his late 70s, and they've got a new album. Oh, and it's currently #2 on the iTunes Country Albums chart and due to be among next week's top retail debuts. Of course, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard aren't exactly typical of musicians with this many years under their belts. Even so, their new Legacy set, Django and Jimmie, is something special.

I may as well just go ahead and confess that the album's title track, which celebrates jazz guitar visionary Django Reinhardt and Country forebear Jimmie "The Singing Brakeman" Rodgers, had me weeping about 16 bars in. This is potent stuff, much of it devoted to celebrating the music and musicians with whom they came up ("Missing Ol' Johnny Cash"). But it's also wise and deep, touching on friendships, family, love and loss with honesty and wit.

Both Nelson and Haggard sound terrific. In addition to limning their own material, new and old, the legendary duo takes on Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," brings buoyant stoner humor to the Buddy Cannon-Jamey Johnson-Larry Shell lament "It's All Going to Pot" and could arguably wring tears from a stone with the Marla Cannon-Goodman/Ward Davis tune "Unfair Weather Friend."

Gorgeously produced by Cannon and featuring exquisite musical accompaniment by a bevy of pros (including Johnson, Cannon and Alison Krauss), Django and Jimmie is more than a welcome musical return by two legends. It's a new classic in its own right.