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Jones Doesn't Flinch From 'Cold Hard Truth'

*** 1/2----GEORGE JONES----"Cold Hard Truth"----Asylum

July 10, 1999|RANDY LEWIS

It's a truism that George Jones, the greatest living country singer, can sing anything and make it sound meaningful. So the good--make that great--news about his first album for a new label is how much care he and producer Keith Stegall have taken with the song selection.

Jones typically makes whatever he sings sound autobiographical, but there's a stunning musique verite feeling in such close-to-real-life ballads as "Choices," "The Cold Hard Truth" and "When the Last Curtain Falls." In "Our Bed of Roses," a lament for a spouse who's died, he may well have the long-awaited emotional bookend to "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

Even the upbeat numbers, which typically serve on his albums as space filler, mostly tie in with the overriding theme of a man taking an unflinching look at a life he knows has had at least as many downs as ups.

Jones' near-fatal car accident in March makes the life-flashing-before-his-eyes tenor of the album that much more poignant, even though he had recorded everything here before the crash.

If he never records another note, this milestone outing would be as honorable a career valedictory as anyone has a right to hope for.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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