The Year of Willie

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard - Pancho & Lefty

Part Seven of Eight

First Appeared at The Music Box, January 2004, Volume 11, #1

Written by John Metzger

Tue December 16, 2003, 12:00 AM CST

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Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard - Pancho & Lefty

Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson
Pancho & Lefty
(Epic/Legacy)

In theory, Townes Van Zandtís cinematic outlaw tale Pancho and Lefty is suited perfectly to the singing styles of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, and for a moment, their 1982 duet works ó that is until Chip Momanís polished production significantly softens the songís gruffer edges, turning it into more mainstream country fluff. If commercial aspirations were what the duo had in mind, however, Moman helped to guide another massive success. Pancho and Lefty topped the country charts, while the album that shared its title was ranked within Billboardís list of the top country releases for nearly two years.

Unlike Nelsonís other 1982 outing Always on My Mind, the rest of Pancho & Lefty isnít nearly as unimaginative. In fact, it surprisingly plays quite well to the strengths of both Haggard and Nelson, succinctly mining the old-time country and western swing territory where both artistsí catalogues intersect. From Nelsonís creepy, but touchingly heartfelt Half a Man to Haggardís weary Reasons to Quit to a pair of tunes (Still Water Runs the Deepest and My Lifeís Been a Pleasure) penned by Bob Willsí former fiddler Jesse Ashlock, the set is subtle, yet sophisticated, and although there are better outings in each singerís past, Pancho & Lefty stands as a welcome reminder as to what country music regularly seems to forget. The addition of Nelsonís solo re-workings of Half a Man and My Own Peculiar Way ó two songs to which he repeatedly returned throughout his career ó make the reissue even stronger. starstarstar Ĺ

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Of Further Interest...

Part One: To Lefty from Willie

Part Two: Willie and Family Live

Part Three: San Antonio Rose

Part Four: Honeysuckle Rose

Part Five: Willie Nelson's Greatest Hits (& Some That Will Be)

Part Eight: Tougher than Leather

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Pancho & Lefty is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2003 The Music Box