The Singer, Not the Songs

George Jones proves honkey-tonk lives on

But like every producer from Daily in the '50s to Sherrill in the '70s and '80s, Stegall can't resist saddling Jones with cringe-worthy novelty trash, and there's plenty of it throughout Cold Hard Truth. Granted, Jones has always had a soft spot for wordplay and puns (e.g., "Relief Is Just a Swallow Away," "Stand on My Own Two Knees," "Feeling Single -- Seeing Double," and "Her Name Is…," among them), and when he cares, he can still sing the hell out of anything put in front of him. But the bubbly giddiness he brings to Truth's "Sinners & Saints," "Real Deal," "You Never Know Just How Good You've Got It," and "Ain't Love a Lot Like That" can hardly save these silly song-mill trifles. Even "Day After Forever," which begins promisingly (and deceptively) as something of a parting shot to a soon-to-be ex, tumbles into trite cliché by the first chorus and never pulls itself out of the sappy mire, despite Jones' impressive, contemplative vocal turn.

The Possum: country music's greatest living voice
The Possum: country music's greatest living voice

Details

Performing 8 p.m., Friday, December 10. Tickets are $39.50, $32.50, and $25.50. For more information call 954-741-7300.
Sunrise Musical Theatre, 5555 NW 95th Ave., Sunrise.

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On three songs, however, Jones not only salvages this typically mediocre album but reminds you just how brilliant he can be when the singer and the song both click. "The Cold Hard Truth," a recasting of Jones' '60s classic "Your Angel Steps Out of Heaven," finds a somber Possum admonishing a philandering husband, assuming the almost godlike guise of the title -- Jones is the truth. The mournful "Our Bed of Roses" dramatically pinpoints the isolation and devastation of divorce, with which Jones is more than familiar. And with "Choices," penned by Billy Yates and Mike Curtis, Jones has found what may be the greatest autobiographical written-to-order since Jerry Lee Lewis tore into "Middle-Age Crazy" back in 1977. Without a trace of self-pity and with the kind of regret only a beaten ex-drunk can summon, Jones confronts head-on all the mistakes he's made over the years, with the forlorn resignation that there isn't much he can do about it except to try and do the best he can to keep it all together, to atone for the sins and get on with life. And thankfully George Jones still has one.

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