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Simply George Jones

Country music long ago lost its defiant frontier spirit, its improvisational character, its penchant for misbehaving (drinking, cheating, and fighting). Its songs were rooted in regions and honored memory. The singers themselves were imperfect specimens: they had odd bodyshapes, barbershop haircuts, and weren’t great singers in the technical sense. Many led broken lives. In other words, they were real people.

That’s gone now. In its stead we have a hyperprocessed Madison Avenue product. It’s still vaguely rural or rather ex-urban but there’s no discernable place. It’s been deracinated. Also, no more drinking and carousing. The forgetable themes seem to be chosen by focus groups and increasingly celebrate different aspects of politically correct consumerism. The melodies are often recycled from older songs and given a pop beat. A procession of perfect blonde twenty-something singer-models strut around in music videos to sexually titillate. In sum, it’s been so thoroughly mainstreamed that it’s practically been absorbed into the global monoculture.

Therefore, it was pleasure to see George Jones in concert last night at the Charlottesville Pavillion. Simple alliterative name. Two syllables. The young waitress at The Nook couldn’t fathom who was performing that evening: “Just some old guy from the 70s.” Seventy-eight years old in September to be precise. He sported a paunch. He missed the high notes.

But, he lived the lyrics that he wrote and the songs are a spontaneous reflection on the challenges and passions of life. Here in the real world.

Or, as he tells it in “The Grand Tour”

Step right up, come on in
If you’d like to take the grand tour
. . .
I have nothing here to sell you.
Just some things that I will tell you.

Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. George Jones.

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