Johnny Paycheck

Tribute to George Jones

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The great unspoken truth behind this cheap, budget-line Tribute to George Jones is that the Possum's style owed a great deal to Johnny Paycheck. It's been argued (very convincingly, by the way) that George borrowed many of his signature phrases from Johnny, but there was no ill will there, since the two palled around for years, even recording a charmingly wretched, coked-out duet album at the end of the '70s. This release doesn't illustrate the care even of that release. It was sneaked into the market in 2002 without any fanfare, and it's impossible to tell when the album was recorded since there are no notes whatsoever. Given the clean, clean production and the edges on Paycheck's voice, it's likely that these are recent recordings. So, it's probably not of interest to anybody who isn't among the hardcore (unless you happen to pick this up at a truckstop on a road trip), but they will be pleasantly surprised by how nice this album is. Sure, Paycheck's voice is a little rough, stained with whiskey and tobacco, but it's still sweet and hits all the notes, and each of these ten songs (all predictable choices, outside of "Take Me" and "She's Mine") is given an unadorned hardcore country arrangement that isn't even sullied by the occasional synthesizer. No, it's not going to be the first Johnny Paycheck album you'd choose to play, nor is it as good as Mr. Hag Told My Story in a Song, but once it starts spinning, it sucks you in and proves itself to be an engaging, convincing listen. And that's a wondrous, welcome surprise.

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