This past Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of George Jones. Since his passing, several artist have given the covers treatment to several of his biggest hits, however there’s one Jones-related collection that stands apart from the rest.
Deer Lodge Records, a Portland, Oregon-based independent label has just released a two-CD set entitled “Deer Lodge: A Tribute To George Jones.” It pays homage to the music of the “Possum,” but isn’t your typical country-related tribute. While there are some down-home versions of Jones classics, the set also features nods to bluegrass, punk, rock, and some Americana sounds, as well.
According to the label’s Bert Sperling, the project is a labor of love to Jones. “(Label co-owner) Ezra Meredith and I were listening to George Jones records, and I just blurted out that we needed to do a George Jones tribute album. It just started out with us, but then we decided to get some friends from the Deer Lodge on it,” he told Billboard. “It just blossomed to asking people who weren’t even in the genre around Portland and in L.A.”
Meredith echoed Sperling’s sentiments, saying “We are huge George Jones fans, and have all of his records, and spent countless nights listening to his stuff. His passing marked the end of an era.”
Once the decision was made to cut the record, Meredith said that he and the label’s roster started to brainstorm about what songs would be included on the project. When asked for a little more information about the label, he told the 615 “Basically, it’s my house. We’ve got a recording studio, a stage in the backyard that we have shows on during the summer. I’ve converted the garage into a dive bar. It’s private, but a lot of musicians in town hang out there, and we swap ideas.”
The set includes many of the Hall of Famer’s biggest hits, but also goes deep into the Jones catalog, with such lesser known favorites as “I Just Don’t Give A Damn,” “Must’ve Been Drunk,” and “You Couldn’t Get The Picture.” Sperling said that the unique song collection was something that he and Meredith came by honestly – with both being huge devotees.
“We will sit down and dig into things like Shine On or Yesterday’s Wine, the album he did with Merle Haggard. We love that random stuff that you’re not going to hear every day. Choosing the deeper tracks embodied the philosophy of what we were trying to do – to widen the audience of what George Jones is.”
Of course, the collection wouldn’t be complete without “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” which gets a dramatic reading from Stephanie Lynn. Believe it or not, her version was one of the last cuts recorded.
“It was getting down to the wire, and we knew that we had to have it on there. Nobody had stepped up to take it yet, perhaps because it is such a daunting song. It took a young artist like Stephanie, with that youthful naivete to step up and do it. We were happy with her performance on it. She did it justice….if you can do that song justice.”
Kati Claborn, part of the five-piece group Hook & Anchor – who cut the Jones and Wynette classic “We’re Gonna Hold On,” said that his voice definitely has an appeal to fans in – and out of country music.
“I think his voice so easily reaches outside of the genre,” she said. “Whether people are huge fans of country music or not, I think when they hear him sing and the way he communicates, that resonates with people. I think that’s why there were so many different directions on the album.”
Another buried treasure from the Jones files was “The Selfishness Of Man,” recorded by Drunken Prayer, aka Morgan Geer, who said that Jones’ appeal comes down to the most obvious aspect – his voice.
“What can’t you say about George Jones? I am kind of evangelistic when it comes to him. He’s got the greatest voice I have ever heard. It will make you cry. It feels like he’s walked in your shoes. His life story was like a Tarantino movie, it’s so intense.”