This is probably my favorite country tune. Made famous by George Jones, later covered by Elvis Costello, but introduced to me in 8th grade by my friend Rachael who gave me a Counting Crows bootleg from their early days in Baltimore. Adam sang it so well and I have loved it ever since.
George Jones just died. He was 81 years old, which is a pretty remarkable run given all the drinking and god knows what all else. He’s gone. The voice is gone, never to be uttered again.
I’m not going to say anything that’s already been said a million times over—we all know that he was the sound of country western music. And if you don’t know George Jones, then right now I want you to imagine what you think a country singer ought to sound like. That’s George.
But the thing about George is he always had that deranged look in his eye. Of course he was loaded on whiskey and cocaine, probably never could see straight in the first place. And yet there was a strange and irresistable lure that I felt when I saw that screwy look in his eyes that made me think, what is this guy feeling right now? What in god’s name is going through his head?
It’s like anything else that’s interesting. It’s real. Maybe it was the pain of a wounded childhood, maybe it was a debilitating chemical addiction, maybe it was heartache, insecurity, a feeling of injustice, or sheer unbridled rage, we’ll never know. Hell, George may not even have known.
But it came through in his singing. Not like a transcription, like I said, we’re dealing in a far more ethereal and slippery business. Maybe you could call it his soul.
And souls are restless. That’s what makes anybody tick—their contradictions. The things they have inside of them that they just don’t understand. They send us drinking and drugging, or cheating, or lying, or working ourselves steadily toward a heart attack or perhaps just playing the goody two shoes role until one day we snap, throw the dog in the trash and crash the Volvo into a telephone pole.
Me personally, I’m striving for balance. Isn’t that hilarious. Well, George never knew it, at least not often, but what he did know was country western music and for that I’m grateful.
Yes, I have a real Uncle Albert. Actually he’s my great uncle. He lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania and like his brothers Peter, John, Bernie, and Julie, he served in World War II.
I really feel like he’s one of the most direct lines I have to that idea of what it means to be American. What does it really mean anymore? I’m not sure. But a large part of me feels like apart from all the freedom and liberty hoopla, it’s more about a feeling that you have in your blood.
As far as I can tell, Uncle Albert lives for just two things… country western music and bass fishing. And storytelling. He’s almost like a living legend, the way he talks. Bizarre stories. Like just going to the supermarket turns into mythology before he gets back home.
And he’s one of those guys that has an insane basement. Like, it’s just dank and weird and it’s filled with all kinds of bizarre electronics and guitars and just random junk. He must have 10 VCRs down there right now. He lives at the flea markets. It’s a whole economy up there in Scranton of townies just trading stuff back and forth. He works security at night.
It was my Uncle Al who got me into country music. To him, there is no other kind of music. He doesn’t like any of that “other junk,” it’s all about singing a simple song nice and straight and just being yourself.
The first country singer he got me into was George Jones. So I thought I’d share a little George Jones number with you here. I learned it from a book Uncle Al gave me of country numbers. He said if I practice real good, he’ll see me on TV one day and I’ll make a lot of money.
I figured I’d get a nice homey feel if I sat at the kitchen table near the window. It did feel homey but I still don’t have a mic stand so I had to resort to unorthodox tactics. There was a flower pot on the sill there and I just took the daisies out and plopped the mic in there which seemed to get the job done.
I really love this song and I hope you enjoy it but please just keep in mind this is an EXTREMELY RAW AND UNPOLISHED RECORDING that may not sound very good at all on your listening device.