On The Record: Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard

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OUT THIS WEEK

django-jimmie_cover-jpgWillie Nelson & Merle Haggard, “Django and Jimmie” (Legacy). Someone should tell Willie Nelson that at 82 years old, he’s not supposed to still be leaving all other Austin musicians in the dust with his new records. Then again, there’s some comfort in knowing that whatever hip new thing may be coming around the bend, Willie remains the gold standard here.

On the heels of last June’s “Band of Brothers” set of mostly new originals and last winter’s revelatory duo disc with sister Bobbie Nelson “December Day” comes this instant-classic project with Merle Haggard, a perfect pairing of country music’s two greatest living legends. Right out of the gate, Willie and Merle serve up a mission statement with the title track saluting early influences Jimmie Rodgers and Django Reinhardt (“a young singing brakeman and a jazz-playing Gypsy”), then follow it with the wonderfully whimsical double-entendre social-commentary “It’s All Going to Pot” with guest Jamey Johnson (on bugle and flugelhorn, no less.

Better still is track three, “Unfair Weather Friend,” a bittersweet number co-written by producer Buddy Cannon’s daughter Marla Cannon-Goodman that ranks with the best ballads either of these giants have ever recorded. By the time they get through Merle’s new original “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash,” trading memorable tales about the Man in Black with guest Bobby Bare, it’s clear that something special was happening in these sessions last fall at Austin’s Arlyn Studios. In the “Making Of” video posted above, Cannon remarks that “everybody seemed to be having fun. And when you’re having fun, that somehow manages to end up inside your songs.”

The rest of the record includes a few new originals by both men, plus a couple of fresh nods to their respective histories the with Nelson’s early hit “Family Bible” and Haggard’s staple “Swingin’ Doors.” An easygoing ramble through Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” proves a warm and wise choice, and Merle’s new “The Only Man Wilder Than Me” wraps up the set as a fitting duet, with each surviving troubadour presumably singing it about the other guy.

Catch both Willie and Merle at Austin360 Amphitheater next month for Willie’s annual July Fourth Picnic. Willie’s Vevo channel on YouTube has videos for “It’s All Going to Pot” and “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash,” but we’re most inclined to share this audio-only version of “Unfair Weather Friend”:

SunrayProjectAlbumCoverSunray Project, self-titled. Local producer, percussionist and DJ Jason McKenzie has an eclectic resume, with credits ranging from world-music outfit Atash to country-folk songwriter Billy Joe Shaver. He merges global rhythms with elements of electronica on this intriguing debut. Release show June 5 at North Door. Here’s the track “Mellow Meadows”:

 

Velo, “Spring” (EP). One of four season-themed collections planned from the concept-driven indie band. Release show June 4 at the Mohawk.

COMING SOON

JUNE 9: Dale Watson, “Call Me Insane” (Red House/Ameripolitan), in-store June 11 at Waterloo Records.

JUNE 9: Uncle Lucius, “The Light” (Boo Clap/Thirty Tigers), in-store June 10 at Waterloo Records, release show June 11 at the Parish.

JUNE 9: Jonny Gray, “Promises Broke,” release show June 6 at Scoot Inn.

JUNE 9: Brandon Callies Band, “(Live) Be Quiet! We’re Recording!”, release show June 9 at Mohawk.

JUNE 16: Heartless Bastards, “Gates of Dawn” (Partisan).

JUNE 16: Cory Morrow, “The Good Fight” (Write On), in-store June 15 at Waterloo Records.

JUNE 18: The Good Earth, “Rock & Tree,” release show June 18 at One-2-One Bar.

JUNE 18: Octopus Rex, “Total Destruction,” release show June 18 at Red 7.

JUNE 23: Patricia Vonne, “Viva Bandolera,” release show June 27 at Continental Club.

JUNE 23: Lee Barber, “The Missing Pages,” release show June 27 at Strange Brew.

JUNE 25: Manco, “The Great Wall,” release show June 25 at Rattle Inn.

JUNE 30: Suzanne Monroe, “Face to the Mirror,” release show June 30 at Ground Floor Theatre.

JULY 10: Crooks, “Wildfire,” release show July 11 at Scoot Inn.

AUG. 1: Carson McHone, “Good Luck Man.”

AUG. 14: Mother Falcon, “Good Luck Have Fun” (BitCandy), playing June 7 at North Door.

AUG. 21: Mike Flanigin, “The Drifter,” with guests including Billy Gibbons, Gary Clark Jr., Alejandro Escovedo and Jimmie Vaughan; performing most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 p.m. at the Continental Gallery.

AUG. 28: David Ramirez, “Fables” (Thirty Tigers), early album listening party July 1 at Cactus Cafe.

Are you an Austin-area act with a new record coming out? Let us know at musicsource@statesman.com.


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