Not sure if many Gaslight fans like George Jones--he was pure country before Alt-Country was in vogue.
George Jones has long been the consensus pick for country music’s greatest ever singer. No less a country legend than Roy Acuff, whose tearful, gulping singing had been a major building block of Jones’s own style, once allowed, “I would give anything if I could sing like George Jones.” Waylon Jennings said, “If we could all sound like we wanted to, we’d sound like George Jones.” Through the years a who’s who of country stars—Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Patty Loveless, countless more—have in one way or another endorsed the sentiment. Like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash (and Merle Haggard, who recorded fine duet albums with Jones in 1982 and again in 2006), Jones has become a modern symbol of old-school country-ness itself. “Don’t rock the jukebox,” Alan Jackson, among his chief contemporary disciples, shouts to the world. “I want to hear some Jones.”
What Jones made sure we heard in his recordings was emotional presence. Singing open-throated but clench-jawed, he sounded restrained and melodramatic, could come off soothing and terrifying, all at once. He sang with deep-down wisdom of just how lowdown it can feel to be a damn fool. Listen to him, for example, on the 1960 hit “Window up Above.” He informs his wife in the song, one of a handful of self-penned classics from early in his career, that he’s seen her kissing her lover in front of the house. “You must have thought that I was sleepin’,” he tells her bitterly. “And I wish that I had been,” he adds, making those seven simple words sound like a suicide note, like a noose he can’t slip around his own neck fast enough. He was a slave to each song’s particular passion just like that. His approach to singing, he told me once, was to call up those memories and feelings of his own that most closely corresponded to those being felt by the character in whatever song he was performing. He was a kind of singing method actor, creating an illusion of the real.