Even people who hate country have heard of Dolly or Kenny, but ironically the late, great George Jones outsold the pair of them despite hardly anyone on this side of the pond having heard of him.
Cold Hard Truth is late period Jones recorded after years of drunken hellraising that put him in the same league as Keith Moon, but the now sober crooner still has that golden voice that is perfect for old style country. A deep baritone that is capable of breathing life into uptempo numbers like Ain’t Love Like That.
But he is at his best on the downbeat ballads as his voice has that perfect edge of melancholy on opener Choices which is sublime as the words force Jones to face up the consequences of his actions and Our Bed Of Roses would be too mawkish in the hands of lesser talent.
For those who think country singers are as bland as Taylor Swift then one story tells the whole Jones story. In the depths of his alcoholism his second wife of four hid the keys to all his cars so he couldn’t get to the liquor store. But Jones noticed the key to his John Deere tractor were still there so he chugged off at 5 miles an hour down a main highway to the store, and an hour later he had his booze. Legend.
Live With The Possum from 1993 names checks his nickname – apparently the young Jones looked like a Possum – where he is clearly having a lot of fun name checking other country legends in Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes and dedicates the sentimental The One I loved Back Then to his beloved Mamma, His boozing and spells in the nick earned him the nickname No Show Jones which he references in the appropriately named No Show Jones and like most country greats is happy to mock his own failings.
He is in fine voice on a driving version of the classic The Race Is On and a medley of early hits elicits the sort of screaming you might get at a One Direction concert such is his statute.
Jones may never have qualified for a Glastonbury legends slot. but country diehards know just how special he was, and this album is a very good introduction to an all-time great who sold records by the shedload over a near 50 year career at the very top.