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George Jones

Cold Hard Truth – 1999 (Asylum)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

Recent travails with the law aside, George Jones remains the standard ofcountry singing to which others aspire. After spending most of the decadeon MCA, he makes his Asylum debut here, and the album is his strongest in years.

From the very first notes of the opening "Choices," a clear-eyed look atalcoholism, there's no doubt that this is hard country music. Producer Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson) put together a small but top-notch group of pickers and let them and Jones carry the ball, rather than load up with special guests - though Vince Gill and Patty Loveless do a wonderful job helping out on the closing ballad, "When The Last Curtain Falls." The result is a sound that is spare and elegant, with plenty of room for Jones to work his vocal magic.

What gives this the edge over Jones' last MCA album is the quality ofthe material. The Possum is the best ballad singer around, but he's greaton up-tempo stuff too, and previous producers have often saddled him withnovelty tunes; here, even the faster songs have some meat to them. All inall, this is an outstanding job.