George Jones

Blue & Lonesome

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Righteous Records is a reissue imprint marketed and distributed by Great Britain's Cherry Red label. They pick titles that appeal to the label's founders regardless of genre -- from Merle Travis and Waylon Jennings to 101 Strings to Jazz Canto, a collection of pre-Beat and Beat-era poetry read by actors and musicians accompanied by Gerry Mulligan, Chico Hamilton, and Ralph Pena. They painstakingly remaster these titles, and dig deep into the archives for bonus material that was recorded either at the same session or around the same time. In this case, George Jones' Blue & Lonesome harks back to 1963, when the great country singer was recording for Mercury with producer Pappy Daily. It is an excellent portrait of Jones' transition. He was well on his way to becoming the great singer of broken love songs and honky tonk ballads from the rockabilly and hillbilly singer of his youth, and these tune prove it. Jones is backed by Nashville legends on this set: Hargus "Pig" Robbins, Buddy Emmons, Grady Martin, Rufus Thibedeaux, Jimmy Day, Tommy Jackson, Buddy Harman, and Hank Garland, to name a few. The material is stone cold classic: beginning with Don Gibson's standard "Oh Lonesome Me" and rattling through a raucous version of Jimmie Fox's "Just Little Boy Blue" (that goes down as one of the most unhinged rockabilly tunes he ever cut) and a pair of Hank Williams nuggets, as well as a few originals including the stellar cheating song "Cup of Loneliness" and the fiddle-driven acoustic number "Don't Stop the Music," which closes the original 12-track set. Rounding out the reissue is a slew of earlier recordings, all self-penned -- including the classic honky tonker "Nothing Can Stop Me," the torch and twang of "Seasons of My Heart" (the first recorded hint of Jones' mature ballad style), and the slow, staggering, and transcendent drinking song "Just One More." For those Jones fans who've been waiting for more of the great Mercury material to surface, this is prime, heady stuff.

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