A Visit from the Possum

George Jones didn’t have a lot of voice left Friday night. But the poor guy, now an octogenarian, apparently is on the upside of recovery from pneumonia. He occasionally put his hand to his chest as if he was hurting, and his upper range was a whisper.

Nobody much minded that, of course, since we’d all packed into the Calvin to see a legend, and there he was, singing for all he was worth despite the ravages of sickness. Of all the old-school country practitioners of excess, Jones seems like the least likely to still be touring in 2012. I’m not even the biggest fan of the man’s music (blame the complications of an extra-Southern upbringing), but his track record of massive hits across many decades is inarguable, as is the utterly distinctive note-bending that distinguishes his huge voice. You’ve got to like that, even if you don’t like that.

And one thing’s clear: his top-notch band and his catalogue of tunes produced such a mellifluous evening of music that, days later, the strains of “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Why Baby Why?” still float through the air around my house.

Here’s hoping Jones makes a full recovery, and gets back that inimitable sound. Here’s the man at his finest, singing what must rank as one of the best-written country songs pretty much ever.

James Heflin

Author: James Heflin

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