Listen Up: Wednesday, May 18, 2005
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PHOTOS: 1
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
George Jones

My Very Special Guests
(Epic/Legacy)

By Tom Geddie

Once when George Jones had lost his license to drive a car, he drove a riding lawnmower to the liquor store — and promptly crashed on the way home. He’s one of country music’s legendary carousers who’s apparently been saved from death more times than a grocery store coupon.
At least two facts remain clear: 1) Jones sings circles around the pretty girls and boys in Nashville, and 2) his sound is too distinct, too raw to get much airplay on mainstream country stations.
This 37-song, wide-ranging compilation of duets from 1977 through 1997 — including 10 from the original 1979 album that bears the same name as this collection and seven from 1991’s Friends in High Places — is mostly a honkytonk history lesson. Highlights include collaborations with Willie Nelson on Nelson’s upbeat and defiant “I Gotta Get Drunk (And I Sure Do Dread It),” the traditional “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” with gospel icons Pop and Mavis Staples, the wink-wink “We Didn’t See a Thing” with Ray Charles, and the gospel-sounding but definitely secular “Our Love Was Ahead of Its Time” (“You came like a storm on a hot summer day”) with Deborah Allen.
Jones also duets with a spectrum of popular music’s genre-busters — Johnny Cash, Mark Chesnutt, David Allan Coe, Elvis Costello, Charlie Daniels, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, Waylon Jennings, Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn, Shelby Lynne, Buck Owens, Ralph Stanley, James Taylor, Randy Travis, Tammy Wynette, and more.
Jones holds his own with the other legends and the rest. The material isn’t new, but — perhaps most important for younger fans who are just discovering this guy — it’s a good introduction, despite the ill-advised “Proud Mary” with Johnny Paycheck and “Patches” with B.B. King.


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