Since we've been debating the good, bad and ugly of honky-tonk in these (Web) pages lately, this marks a good point to announce the new American Beat/Sony reissue of two George Jones classics, 1972's A Picture of Me (Without You) and the next year's Nothing Ever Hurt Me (Half As Bad As Losing You). Combined onto one disc, the albums represent the epitome of Billy Sherrill's countrypolitan sound and are a long way from anything that can be described as traditional honky tonk. Even though the lyrics contain more cheese than a giant pizza, Jones is still Jones, climbing so far inside the lyrics he forces us not only to listen but to get it.
Always a savvy song selector, Jones aces deep tracks like Tom T. Hall's "Never Having You" and Don Gibson's "Made For The Blues." And when The Possum steps up the tempo on the hilarious "Nothing's Ever Hurt Me," we get a glimpse of the East Texas rockabilly wildman from the "White Lightnin'" days. The audience-widening crossover-to-pop calculation of the countrypolitan sound was in many ways an artistic travesty that saccharine-ized country music, but due to both Jones' vocal and interpretive genius and Sherrill's restraint with the string section, both albums prove to be part of the cream of the countrypolitan era and remain surprisingly listenable and evergreen.