In 2006, two of the biggest country singers, Merle Haggard and George Jones, released a studio album titled Kickin’ Out the Footlights… Again. The first track on the album was Haggard’s 1979 song “Footlights.”
“Jones Sings Haggard, Haggard Sings Jones”
It wasn’t their first rodeo together, though. The two had already recorded in 1982 in an album called A Taste of Yesterday’s Wine, which produced their number-one hit single “Yesterday’s Wine.” In 1997, they performed a duet rendition of Haggard’s 1980 track “The Way I Am” on a TV special honoring Haggard himself.
But instead of the usual all-duet album, they took a different approach to their new collaboration. They each sang five tracks originally recorded by the other – as their sub-title said, “Jones Sings Haggard, Haggard Sings Jones,” resulting in a total of ten tracks. Then, they did full-fledged duets for the last four songs, including their first track, “Footlights.”
Merle Haggard originally recorded this song, and it hit an autobiographical note for both of them as he talked about his reflections as an aging country star. It was also Jones’ favorite Haggard song, which he shared when Haggard appeared on his show. He even asked him to sing a verse of it.
Aside from doing the vocals, Haggard was also credited in the album as one of the three producers alongside Keith Stegall and Lou Bradley. Susan Nadler and Evelyn Shriver served as executive producers.
Onto The Duet
Jones opened the duet – his voice evidently aged, as the critics noted. AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine commented, “Of the two, George sounds a bit worse for wear—his voice is a little thin and slightly scratchy.” Nevertheless, Jones still sounded so good – like wine improving with age – proving why he was one of the best country vocalists.
Haggard then took over the second verse. As music critic Robert Christgau said, Hag’s voice kept getting Haggier. Anyone would instantly know it was him, but they would also definitely know the song belonged in his older discography.
Then they hit the chorus together, their voices melting and blending so well and nailing the emotional tune of what it was like being seasoned country musicians. Also, dare we say, it was as good as the original – probably even better.
Listen to Merle Haggard and George Jones’ duet of “Footlights” in the video below.
George Jones, merle haggard