What we have here is a Possum stew, spicy, hearty, flavorful, and thick with gristle and fatback as an assortment of bands/artists offer their interpretations of George Jones songs proving how far his influence goes.
Country music legend George Jones tribute, Deer Lodge: A Tribute to George Jones, released on Portland, OR-based indie label Deer Lodge Records
Country music legend George Jones (aka "The Possum"), a man credited with having the finest voice in the recorded history of country music, passed away on April 26, 2013, following being hospitalized earlier that month for a fever and irregular blood pressure.
In honor of the man who started out as a hardcore honky tonker in the tradition of Hank Williams but, over the course of his career, developed an affecting, nuanced ballad style, Portland, Oregon-based independent record label Deer Lodge Records put together a two-CD, thirty-track collection of songs from artists across the West Coast, paying homage to "The Possum."
Produced by Deer Lodge's Ezra Meredith and Bert Sperling, the album spans the gamut from punk, bluegrass, post-modern pop, and even reggae, putting Jones' songs in a different light while giving them praise.
"It's always interesting to have a framework to start with, to take someone else's song and make it your own," says Brush Prairie's Zia McCabe, who's band covered "Tennessee Whiskey."
"Tribute albums do just that by honoring another artist through an original version of their song," she continues. "It's been great getting to know Bert Sperling through this process. I know I've made a lifelong friend and I look forward to working on more projects with him."
On choosing "Tennessee Whiskey," McCabe admits she hadn't heard the song prior, but really liked the lyrics.
"I chose 'Tennessee Whiskey' based on the lyrics - it wasn't a song I was familiar with - without listening to the original track. Once I related to the lyrics, then I gave the song a listen. I believe this helped me deliver a performance that was genuine."
When asked why Deer Lodge decided to do a tribute to George Jones, Deer Lodge Studios owner and co-producer Ezra Meredith quickly states, "he's the greatest singer of all time."
"George Jones is a lifelong hero of mine, as well as one of the best singers of all-time in any genre," adds Sperling.
The process for picking the bands on the tribute album, which includes heavy Northwest hitters including Sassparilla, Fernando, Water Tower, Drunken Prayer, Lewi Longmire & Portland Country Underground, Hearts of Oak, and Meredith Brothers, to name a few, started with Sperling and Meredith picking artists they knew and respected, then they "reached out to some personal heroes of mine and artists that I'd always wanted to work with," says Sperling.
Furthering that, Meredith states, "I got all the bands that have put out albums on the Deer Lodge label over the years to contribute (Drunken Prayer, Hearts of Oak, Gabe Rozzell, Drugstore Cowboy, NoPoMoJo, and my band Meredith Brothers), and then asked a few friends like Erik Clampitt (Hook & Anchor) & W.C. Beck to do a song. Also, I had a few people email me about getting on it."
Of the tribute album, Clampitt states, "Nick Tosches hit the nail on the head when he wrote that George Jones was 'a singer from whose invisible depths torrents of perception and emotion emerge with impossible eloquence.' Jones' voice erases the distance between the singer and the listener, makes you forget that you dropped the needle, pushed the play button. We chose 'We're Gonna Hold On' to pay tribute to George's legendary duet work with Tammy Wynette, and have had a great time working with Deer Lodge Records. Their dedication to the project and love for the music rings through the album."
Not only did Deer Lodge Records get to work with bands they admire, while paying homage to one of their favorite musicians of all-time, they also got a valuable and rewarding experience working with new acts in this capacity.
"The experience was one of the most rewarding and transcendent of my life," says Sperling. "All the artists brought their A-game to their interpretations. This is a project I will be proud to look back on forever. Working with Shawn Smith has been a lifelong dream for me. And, I met Zia McCabe from Brush Prairie, whose voice is beautiful and whom I can't wait to work with again. Water Tower is a fun and youthful talent, and meeting locals Fernando and Catherine Feeny, who are sublime vocalists, was also wonderful. I also met The Wellspring through this tribute - I love their harmonies and their track just blew me away."
Adding to that, Meredith says, "it was kind of strange having a new band come in to my studio every day or so. It's hard to develop a consistent work flow. Overall, it went pretty smoothly and everyone was happy."
The end result is something Sperling and Meredith are very proud of, something they are happy to stamp the Deer Lodge name all over.
"It came out better than I ever could have dreamed," beams Sperling. "It started out as a small seed of an idea as a single disc tribute with close friends, and swelled to a 30-track double album with some of the best talent out there. I'm still in shock at how much heart and soul these artists put into their submissions, and how quickly they were able to work. It has filled me with faith in the positive nature of the world, and has made me believe in the power of being optimistic and listening to the small voice in your head that encourages you to dream."
A must have for George Jones fans, the album will also find new converts to the world of Jones, with each band bringing their own, unique style to Jones' classics, making those unfamiliar with Jones' work want to go and listen after hearing a stunning re-make.
Order the Deer Lodge George Jones tribute album now! $15 + shipping. This is a 30 track double album folks! Featuring: Fernando, Sassparilla, W.C. Beck, Drunken Prayer, Shawn Smith, Water Tower, Lewi Longmire & The Portland Country Underground, The Tumblers, Countryside Ride, Copper & Coal, Hearts of Oak & more!!!
1. White Lightning - Sassparilla
2. She Thinks I Still Care - The Wellspring
3. Still Doing Time - Lewi Longmire & Portland Country Underground
4. The Race Is On - Water Tower
5. When the Grass Grows over Me - Tyler Stenson
6. Walk Through This World with Me - Copper & Coal
7. The Grand Tour - Keeter & Ali
8. Selfishness in Man - Drunken Prayer
9. Seasons of My Heart - The Tumblers
10. He Stopped Loving Her Today - Stephanie Lynn
11. Tennessee Whiskey - Brush Prairie
12. Finally Friday - Honky Tonk Union
13. I Always Get Lucky with You - Hank Sinatra
14. The Ghost of Another Man - Shawn Smith
15. Where the Soul Never Dies - Brandon Schott w/ Andy Reed
1. Wings of a Dove - Fernando
2. We're Gonna Hold On - Hook & Anchor
3. The Battle - Meredith Brothers
4. If You Couldn't Get the Picture - Bert Sperling
5. Must've Been Drunk - Hearts of Oak
6. Golden Ring - Neon Renaissance
7. The Door - Owen Grace
8. I Just Don't Give a Damn - Gabe Rozzell
9. Choices - NoPoMoJo
10. Bartender Blues - Countryside Ride
11. If I Don't Love You (Grits Ain't Groceries) - Bad Assets
12. Milwaukee, Here I Come - The Rocky Butte Wranglers
13. Her Name Is... - Drugstore Cowboy
14. Too Much Water - The Fall To Pieces
15. Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes - W.C. Beck