Nearly 25 years after their last album together (1982's A Taste of Yesterday's Wine
), the Possum and the Hag reunite... with a twist. This time, they sing each other's songs. The conceit can be dangerous unless you're playing it for laughs, e.g., Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley on the former's 1960 television special. But though Jones puts more emotion into interpreting Haggard's songs than Hag reciprocates, these two old legends manage to pull it off. And with the help of producer Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson), they keep the music solid, too, spotlighting steel guitar great Norm Hamlet and celebrated piano sideman Pigg Robbins, who played on many of their original recordings. Jones particularly shines on "The Way I Am," and Haggard proves sublime on "I Always Get Lucky with You." Where the album really lights up, however, is on the duo's pocketful of duets, starting with a poignant and intensely resonant rendition of Haggard's classic aging-musician ballad, "Footlights." Surprisingly, the repertoire never seems tired, and there's a surprise around every corner: Rhonda Vincent adding splendid harmonies on Haggard's new "Born to the Blues" and Jones turning transcendent on a confessional line about being "crazy and lonely." Just as these ragged masters take their leave, they put a little more Western in Duke Ellington's swing ("Don't Get Around Much Anymore"), filling in the middle with a warm, nostalgic banter that reminds listeners just how much these two have seen and done. Who knew hard-luck autobiography could sound so exquisite? --Alanna Nash
Nashville, TN (Bandit Records) - Iconic legends and superstars George Jones and Merle Haggard recorded an album together for the first time in almost 25 years. The old friends and touring buddies are planning to go into the studio this summer to pay tribute to each other. Jones recorded five of his favorite Haggard songs and Haggard recorded five of his favorite Jones songs. In addition to harmonizing on each other's songs, they also recorded several duets, including the title song of the album, Kicking Out The Footlights...Again, which Haggard penned. Produced by KEITH STEGALL (Alan Jackson and George Jones) the contains many of the two music industry legends' most well loved tunes including ''She Thinks I Still Care,'' ''Silver Wings,'' ''The Window Up Above'' and ''The Way I Am.'' The last time we recorded together was 25 years ago, and though we've both changed a lot over the years, our love for real country music and respect for each other has only gotten stronger, ' Jones said from his Franklin, TN. house. ''The fans want to hear Hag sing a Jones song and me sing one of Hag's.'' Recognized as two of the only authentic country interpreters left today, Jones Haggard have a long history of occupying iconic positions not only in country music's legacy, but pop's as well. They have influenced virtually every country music artist who has come along in the last 50 years and every bar band in America sings Haggard and Jones nightly. Haggard just completed several dates opening for The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, and Jones has been celebrated by everyone from Keith Richards to Harry Connick, JR.