Kickin' Out the Footlights...Again

George Jones / Merle Haggard

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Kickin' Out the Footlights...Again Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Twenty five years after their first duet album, A Taste of Yesterday's Wine, George Jones and Merle Haggard teamed up again for 2006's Kickin' Out the Footlights...Again. This time around, Merle and George each sing five songs originally recorded by the other, then team up for four full-fledged duets, including the title track, which chronicles the tales of an aging country singer, a song clearly intended to appear somewhat autobiographical for these two legends. It's not the only time that their advanced age is addressed on the album; indeed, the closing rendition of Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" plays with their senior citizenship (it also plays with their legends, too, with George playfully reviving his duck voice for a fleeting moment too). It makes sense to address their age head-on: at the time of recording, Hag was a year shy of 70 and George was 75, and they no longer sound like spring chickens. Of the two, George sounds a bit worse for wear -- his voice is a little thin and slightly scratchy -- but even if their age is evident on Kickin' Out the Footlights...Again, the album also illustrates exactly why Jones and Haggard are two of the greatest vocalists in country music history. They may cover each other's songs here, but they by no means replicate the other's performances. In George's hands, "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink" becomes bouncy and defiant, while Merle brings out the weary humor in "Things Have Gone to Pieces," and when they're tackling such iconic hits as "The Race Is On" or "All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers," they do so with gusto. Like on A Taste of Yesterday's Wine, the duets are more respectful than dynamic, but there is a dose of spirited good humor to their reading of the Western swing classic "Sick, Sober & Sorry" and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" that is impossible not to find charming. And "charming" pretty much summarizes Kickin' Out the Footlights...Again -- it may not be a late career masterwork, the way that Hag's If I Could Only Fly was (or the way Jerry Lee Lewis' Last Man Standing, released a month prior to this, was), but it's hard not to be charmed by two old masters who still retain much of their magic after all these years.

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