George Jones got his start on Starday, a small Texas label co-owned by record producer Papa Dailey. Dailey had discovered Jones in 1953 and signed the singer up the following year. At that point, Jones had been working the Texas circuit, but had yet to make it nationally. With a spot on the Louisiana Hayride radio broadcast and his first hit "Why Baby Why," though, Jones broke out and would go onto even greater fame with the Mercury, UA, and Epic record labels. This fine collection focuses on those early days at Starday in the mid-'50s, and finds Jones still in the throes of Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell's singing styles. And while Williams' influence is particularly evident on songs like "Play It Cool" and "Let Him Know," Jones still makes the songs distinct with his powerful and bluesy phrasing (he would take this talent to devastating heights on his later '60s and '70s sides, especially the ballads). This gospel-imbued expressiveness was certainly nothing new to country, but Jones seems to have done it better than anyone (check out the mountain revival number "Taggin' Along"). Besides being a valuable and emotive document of Jones' development, this collection also contains several tracks not found on other compilations covering his early 1954-1962 material. From Saturday night honky tonkin' to Sunday morning churchgoing, George Jones makes it all swing hard, country-style, on these 14 topnotch cuts.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook