Pancho & Lefty (album)

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Pancho & Lefty
Studio album by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson
Released January 1983
Recorded November 1982, Pedernales Recording Studio, Spicewood, TX
Genre Country
Length 35:35
Label Epic
Producer Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Chips Moman
Merle Haggard chronology
Goin' Home for Christmas
(1982)
Pancho & Lefty
(1983)
That's the Way Love Goes
(1983)

Pancho & Lefty is a honky tonk album by outlaw country musicians Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, released in 1983.

Background[edit]

A blockbuster album, Pancho & Lefty dominated country music for the year and helped establish both artists as two of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed of the genre. Nelson and Haggard were two of Nashville's biggest artists of the time, the former at his creative peak and the latter having just released a successful comeback (Big City) two years previously.

The title track was written by Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt and was recorded towards the end of the recording sessions. The song tells the story of a Mexican bandit named Pancho and a more mysterious character, Lefty, and implies that Pancho was killed after he was betrayed by his associate Lefty, who was paid off by the Mexican federales. In the Van Zandt biopic Be Here To Love Me, Nelson recalls how the album with Haggard was nearly completed but he felt they didn't have "that blockbuster, you know, that one big song for a good single and a video, and my daughter Lana suggested that we listen to 'Pancho and Lefty'. I had never heard it and Merle had never heard it." Lana Nelson returned with a copy of the song and Nelson cut it immediately with his band in the middle of the night but had to retrieve a sleeping Haggard, who had retired to his bus hours earlier, to record his vocal part.[citation needed] Van Zandt appears in the video for the song playing one of the Mexican federales. "It was real nice they invited me," Van Zandt told Aretha Sills in 1994.[citation needed] The song topped the Billboard country music singles chart. A second single, the sombre "Reasons to Quit," was another Top 10 hit.[1]

Haggard and Nelson would record another album together in 1987 with Seashores of Old Mexico.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars [2]
Robert Christgau (B+)[3]

Martin Monkman of AllMusic calls the album "an album by two legends that lives up to, and at one point exceeds, expectations... one gets the sense that this is a collaboration in every sense."[2] Music critic Robert Christgau wrote "Haggard hasn't sung with so much care in years, which is obviously Nelson's doing..."[3]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Lead Vocal Length
1. "Pancho and Lefty"   Townes van Zandt Willie with Merle on the last verse 4:49
2. "It's My Lazy Day"   Smiley Burnette   2:50
3. "My Mary"   Stuart Hamblen, Jimmie Davis   3:17
4. "Half a Man"   Willie Nelson   4:13
5. "Reasons to Quit"   Merle Haggard   3:32
6. "No Reason to Quit"   Dean Holloway   3:15
7. "Still Water Runs the Deepest"   Jesse Ashlock   2:46
8. "My Life's Been a Pleasure"   Jesse Ashlock   3:25
9. "All the Soft Places to Fall"   Leona Williams   4:01
10. "Opportunity to Cry"   Willie Nelson   4:01
2003 Bonus Tracks
No. Title Writer(s) Lead Vocal Length
11. "Half a Man" (alternate version) Willie Nelson Willie 3:35
12. "My Own Peculiar Way"   Willie Nelson Willie 2:59
Total length:
42:16

Personnel[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Album[edit]

Chart (1983) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums 1
U.S. Billboard 200 37

Singles[edit]

Year Single Peak chart positions
US Country US AC CAN Country
1983 "Reasons to Quit" 6 7
"Pancho and Lefty" 1 21 1
Preceded by
Mountain Music by Alabama
The Closer You Get... by Alabama
The Closer You Get... by Alabama
The Closer You Get... by Alabama
The Closer You Get... by Alabama
Top Country Albums number-one album
April 9, 1983
July 9, 1983
July 23–30, 1983
September 3–17, 1983
October 1, 1983
Succeeded by
The Closer You Get... by Alabama
The Closer You Get... by Alabama
The Closer You Get... by Alabama
The Closer You Get... by Alabama
The Closer You Get... by Alabama

References[edit]

  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. 
  2. ^ a b Monkman, Martin. "Pancho & Lefty > Review". AllMusic. Retrieved July 2, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Pancho & Lefty > Review". Robert Christgau. Retrieved March 16, 2015.