Tom Jones

Hot Country Nights

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Before (or actually in the midst of) his career of catching panties on his mike stand, smooth crooning Welshman Tom Jones had his own televised variety show which gave Mr. Jones a chance to do what he does best -- charm an audience with his hirsute lungs. On this new compilation, Jones takes his audience back to the farm he didn't grow up on for some Surrey-fied country. From the opening strains of "It's Not Unusual," which announced Jones' entrance to the "hotel guy" thanking the lovely Holiday Inn where guests stayed while in Vancouver (?), the album runs like a consolidated season, getting all of Jones' toe-tappin' faves in on one disc. In the middle, the authenticity scale of country is tested from end to end: from Glen's "Four Walls" and Hank's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" to Eddie's "I Love a Rainy Night" and Dolly's "Nine to Five" (which proves that a legendary country artist does not always a legendary country song make). On "Let Your Love Flow," audience participation changes from an enthusiastic drizzle of applause to a foreboding march of hands. And Jones follows suit, growling lasciviously and vocally thrusting his hips even as he sings what he cheekily calls "old religious songs." Quoting Horace and Kris Kristofferson, Jones shows himself to be an educated showman, but perhaps not the most bumpkined of country singers.

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