Searing, indelible, undeniable. When someone heard George Jones sing, they never forgot. In part because he lived as hard as he sang those classic country songs. With dates booked through November 2013, George Jones knew one thing -- keep singing. It's what he did, it's how he lived. Well, that and a world class emotional raw spot that inflected everything he ever sang.
The reality landed squarely in 1985 when Jones looked the oncoming credibility scare of Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, Randy Travis, Lyle Lovett, Ricky Skaggs, Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell square in the eye and pondered the inevitability of change. Knowing that time passes and tastes change, he didn't so much decry the newcomers, as he questioned those who miss the value of the ones who come before.
Celebrating Luke the Drifter, Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Lefty Frizzell and a handful of country legends who shaped the genre, the moaning blues-country vocalist asked "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes?" The more the Troy Seals/Max D. Barnes song -- produced by the old-school classicist Billy Sherrill -- unfurled, the more the contrast expanded.
It's a question that bares asking, now more than ever. In a world of pitch-correcting, Pro Tools, splicing and stacking vocals, George Jones did it real, on the fly and with the band. Legendarily, it took 83 takes to get "White Lightning," but a real performance that sparks like a flint striking in the dark.
Do we need old school country music? Hard to say. But you listen to the processed, bulked up steroidal arena country, then put on "When the Grass Grows Over Me." Feel the difference and decide which has the most immediacy, the most charisma, the most punch to the stomach. It won't take but a bar or two.
I'm struck by the endurance and the nakedness to his performances. The unwillingness to deflect anything. What he felt was what he sang. Undeniable, and yet that incandescence of feral intensity is its own creative force.
George Jones, you see, wasn't someone who came to play, but to burn. When you look at it like that, you realize ain't nobody who can fill those shoes. (read more from article by Holly Gleaon at CMT.com)