By James Calemine
This double-barreled re-issue captures two of George Jones’ strongest albums. One cannot quibble over the greatness of George Jones. The man has written “The Race Is On”, “White Lighting”, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “Hell Stays Open” among many others. George Jones contends as one of our greatest country musicians.
Famed producer Billy Sherrill engineered these two albums recorded in the early 70s. A Picture of Me reached Number 3 on Billboard’s Country Album chart and featured two top 10 hits—the title track and “What My Woman Can’t Do”. On these albums Jones focuses on the songs of other writers such as Wilson/Richey (“A Picture of Me”), Tom T. Hall (“Second Handed Flowers”), Spooner Oldham (“She Loves Me”), Ernest Tubb (“Tomorrow Never Comes”) and Earl Montgomery (“We Found A Match”).
The album Nothing Ever Hurt Me continues in the vein of A Picture of Me. The title track, written by Earl Montgomery starts this CD with an upbeat swing and immediately one realizes the underrated vocal talent of Jones. His voice proves unmistakable—you recognize it within the first five seconds of hearing him sing. Jones penned “You’re Looking At A Happy Man” and it ranks as one of his strongest compositions of this era. Jones renders Tom T. Hall’s “Never Having You” with a quicksilver melody and beat that would make any dance floor hopping.
Jones’ version of Don Gibson’s “Made For the Blues” proves Jones’ versatile musical aptitude as he combines a country pedal steel and bluesy harmonica to invoke an inimitable tune. “What’s Your Mama’s Name?” begins “It was some odd years ago/When a young man came to Memphis/Asking about a rose that used to blossom in his world”, and it invokes a sadness one cannot escape when hearing this story-song.
Lefty Frizzell’s “Mom and Dad’s Waltz” conjures old memories of one’s parents that contains a universal beauty.
Jones sings a song written by his ex-wife Tammy Wynette, “You’ll Never Grow Old (To Me)”, and one can only stand amazed at the emotive pitch Jones uses his voice to get across a message. The final cut, another song Jones wrote with Wynette—“Wine”—tells the tale of a battle with the bottle which mirrors Jones life with an austere resonance.