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Album Review

Of all the George Jones duet recordings, this one — done with his recently divorced wife, Tammy Wynette — remains the finest moment. Golden Ring was released in 1976 and produced by the legendary Billy Sherrill. This is a set full of heartbreak songs accompanied by real heartbreak. Jones went on a multi-year bender after the divorce was final, putting his health, reputation, and even career on the line. It's no stretch to say that these songs are loaded with emotion, but for a change, Sherrill's production allows the voices to speak for themselves. The track list is devastating, opening as it does with Bobby Braddock's title track. Jones' singing here is among his best of the 1970s, and Wynette as his partner gives him a run for his money as the top biller on the record jacket. Buck Owens' "Cryin' Time" begins with them singing, so to speak, cheek to cheek. Red Lane and Daniel Morrison's "I've Seen Better Days" gives Wynette the space to sing first, and she seizes the opportunity with restraint, drama, and relish for the entire verse. Jones responds lost, forsaken, and bewildered as to how he ever got here. Ray Price's honky tonk "I'll Be There If You Want Me" is brave posturing in the tradition of Lee Hazlewood's "Jackson" — it comes off entirely without conviction, and it takes the Jordanaires to prop Jones up, though Wynette responds with daring. Golden Ring is one of those country albums that is essential. It is a perfect document of '70s Nashville's most polished and tasteful records, and stands as a high point for both Jones and Wynette. In short, it is simply a classic.

Biography

Born: 12 September 1931 in Beaumont, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

By most accounts, George Jones was the finest vocalist in the recorded history of country music. Initially, he was a hardcore honky tonker in the tradition of Hank Williams, but over the course of his career he developed an affecting, nuanced ballad style. In the course of his career, he never left the top of the country charts, even as he suffered innumerable personal and professional difficulties. Only Eddy Arnold had more Top Ten hits, and Jones always stayed closer to the roots of hardcore country....
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