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CD Reviews: Review of Hits I Missed… And One I Didn’t by George Jones
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Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com George Jones: Hits I Missed… And One I Didn’t  (Bandit  2005)

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Even in the ever-dwindling realm of old school country artists who are still among the living and recording new albums, George Jones stands alone. He never fell into the category of “outlaw” like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson, which is a little ironic, given that he’s best known to a lot of folks for having been captured on camera in all his glorious belligerency during a police stop for drunk driving. (He also knocked on death’s door after wrecking his sport utility vehicle – possibly under the influence of vodka – back in 1999, but he fought his way back to health.) Instead, Jones’ reputation came courtesy of his smooth voice. He’s been described not just as “the greatest country singer since Hank Williams” (The Boston Phoenix) but, more specifically, “one of the greatest singers, ever” (Salon Magazine).

Jones celebrated his 50th year in the business last year, with the 3-CD set, “50 Years of Hits,” so, to kick Year 51 off in fine style, he’s delivered Hits I Missed...And One I Didn’t. The concept is one that involves Jones poking a little fun at himself, given that he took a pass on all of these songs at one point or another, and, as the liner notes indicate, “all of them went on to become big hits and, as he’d hear them on the radio, he’d laugh about the ‘hits he missed.’”

Most of the songs are recognizable simply from their titles, such as the lead track, Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away,” Alan Jackson’s “Here In The Real World,” and Randy Travis’s “On The Other Hand,” and the country standard, “Skip A Rope,” covered to great effect in the past by the Kentucky Headhunters. Jones tackles each of them with his usual country confidence, delivering solid takes all around. He duets with fellow legend Dolly Parton on “The Blues Man,” a Hank Williams, Jr. composition that, despite Jones’s claim that “I think Hank, Jr. wrote it about his dad,” could just as soon have been written about Jones himself...a theory absolutely in no way disproved by Jones’s decision to change the lyrics to first person:

I got so sick from speedin’, all the things they said I was needin’
If I was to keep on pleasin’ all of my fans
I got cuffed on dirt roads, I got sued over no shows
She came and took all that old load down off this old blues man

The One I Didn’t referenced in the album’s title stands out like a sore thumb amongst the disc’s track listing; it’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” Jones’s signature song. To this day, it remains one of the saddest songs in the history of country music, let alone any other genre. It’s the first time Jones has done a studio recording of the song in over 25 years, and, given its lyrics – “They placed a wreath upon his door / And soon they’ll carry him away / He stopped loving her today” – Jones’s older and wiser delivery makes the song even more poignant.

Nowadays, it’s sometimes hard to remember, but country music isn’t about polish and sheen; half the time, it’s not even about writing your own material. It’s about taking a song, no matter what its origin, and telling its story so convincingly that people believe it’s yours...and, with 51 years of country music know-how under his belt, George Jones does that better than just about anyone else. 

~Will Harris 


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