George Jones

Memories of Us

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This is the one country fans both looked forward to, and were almost too anxious to speak about, and perhaps dreaded: the first George Jones album after his divorce from Tammy Wynette. The title track, with its personal historical metaphors of abandoned movie theaters and other geographical locations, are metaphorical for a relationship that is not bittersweet, but full of grief. The same is true of denial in "A Goodbye Joke," "She Should Belong to Me," and "She Once Made a Romeo Cry." Here is denial and regret and astonishment all roiled into one on a record album. Jones, with Billy Sherrill, let down the guard and answered all the forbidden questions before fans and the media asked them. "What I Do Best" is a song that makes the claims that the protagonist's finest skill is missing his lover. There is some comic relief in "Have You Seen My Chicken," a cut about a guitar picker, and the laughter in front of the tears on the swinging two-step of "Bring On the Clowns." The final track is the bitterest cut Jones ever recorded. He claims he wrote it at 3 a.m. in the aftermath of the divorce, and it comes right from the Hank Williams tradition of catharsis songs. Jones condemns everyone and everything including himself. As he denies his shortcomings, he fires back simultaneously -- with razor-sharp fineness -- his anger. That fiddle floating in the background offers a portrait of loneliness and rage that is unbridled and self-destructive in the classic honky tonk style. Jones began a run of recordings with The Grand Tour in 1974 that would last pretty much through 1980. Memories of Us is one of those records that cannot be played all the time, but when in the proper space for a heartbreak record, none will fit the bill better.

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