12 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Bluegrass singers don't come with much more cred than James King, who was a member of Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys and is named for a father who worked with Reno & Smiley. But for Three Chords and the Truth, King decided to reach outside the bluegrass songbook, selecting straight-up country tunes and reinventing them via full-on bluegrass arrangements (and, of course, his own incisive vocal style). It takes a brave man to tackle George Jones' legacy by revisiting the country legend's signature song "He Stopped Loving Her Today"—let alone reinventing it as a bluegrass ballad. But King's no-frills approach and straight-from-the-gut delivery turn this time-honored tearjerker into something new. King manages a similar feat with Billy Joe Shaver's "Old Five and Dimers," which became an outlaw-country anthem through Waylon Jennings' landmark recording and gets a hearty high-lonesome makeover here. King's unpretentious style and naked emotional honesty have already earned him accolades for being bluegrass's greatest vocalist, but Three Chords throws his hat in the ring as one of the most affecting all-around country singers too.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Bluegrass singers don't come with much more cred than James King, who was a member of Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys and is named for a father who worked with Reno & Smiley. But for Three Chords and the Truth, King decided to reach outside the bluegrass songbook, selecting straight-up country tunes and reinventing them via full-on bluegrass arrangements (and, of course, his own incisive vocal style). It takes a brave man to tackle George Jones' legacy by revisiting the country legend's signature song "He Stopped Loving Her Today"—let alone reinventing it as a bluegrass ballad. But King's no-frills approach and straight-from-the-gut delivery turn this time-honored tearjerker into something new. King manages a similar feat with Billy Joe Shaver's "Old Five and Dimers," which became an outlaw-country anthem through Waylon Jennings' landmark recording and gets a hearty high-lonesome makeover here. King's unpretentious style and naked emotional honesty have already earned him accolades for being bluegrass's greatest vocalist, but Three Chords throws his hat in the ring as one of the most affecting all-around country singers too.

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2:49
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About James King

With his 1993 solo album These Old Pictures, James King was established as a top-notch bluegrass vocalist. The album, however, was only the latest step in a musical career that had begun 14 years before.

A featured member of Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys in the 1980s, King, who was raised in Virginia's Carroll County, grew up listening to bluegrass. His father, Jim King, had appeared on Roanoke television with Don Reno and Red Smiley as tenor vocalist and guitarist for the Country Cousins, and, with his uncle, Joe Edd King, had played with the late Ted Lundy of the Southern Mountain Boys in the 1960s.

Following a stint in the Marines, King launched his musical career in 1979. His recording debut came on the long-titled album Stanley Brothers Classics with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys and Introducing James King in 1985. His second album, Reunion with Ralph Stanley Featuring George Shuffler and James King, was released three years later.

King's 1985 self-titled debut solo outing was followed by It's a Cold Cold World, released in 1989 and reissued as Webco Classics, Volume Two in 1996. While both albums showcased his crystal-clear lead vocals, neither featured the high-quality instrumental accompaniment of his later work.

After signing with Rounder Records, King's career was propelled into overdrive. These Old Pictures -- which featured members of the Johnson Mountain Boys (Dudley Cornell, Tom Adams and David McLaughlin) and the Lynn Morris Band (Marshall Wilborn and Tim Smith), plus ex-Nashville Bluegrass Band mandolinist Mike Compton -- was named Breakthrough Album of the Year by Bluegrass Unlimited and led to King being nominated as Emerging Artist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 1995. King's fourth solo album, Lonesome and Then Some, featured many of the same players.

In 1997, King joined with Cornell, Wilborn, Glen Duncan, Joe Mullins and Don Rigsby to form the bluegrass supergroup Longview. The solo Bed by the Window followed a year later. ~ Craig Harris

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