Not quite a year after George Jones slipped off the wagon and very nearly shuffled off this mortal coil, he looks and sounds better than a body has a right to. Especially a body that already had weathered a couple lifetimes' worth of punishment before he ran his SUV off the road last March and almost died.
On Monday at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, the 68-year-old Texan appeared only nominally worse for the wear--his signature swooping low notes a tad wobbly, his mountain-spring-clear high ones sullied here and there.
His set clocked in at precisely an hour and pretty much replicated the song list from his recent "Live With the Possum" album. The main difference was the inclusion of three songs from his superb "Cold Hard Truth" album, which has three nominations going into tonight's Grammys ceremony.
The new material joins such career landmarks as "Once You've Had the Best," "A Picture of Me Without You" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today" at the country-music pinnacle of emotional catharsis.
"He Stopped Loving Her" isn't the greatest country song ever, but Jones' show-stopping performance explained why it is frequently cited as such, thanks to the lifetime of hurt his staggering vocal talent can inject into such melodramatic material.