Deer Lodge: A Tribute to George Jones

Performed By: Various Artists

Produced by: Deer Lodge Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

           For country music fans out there, the passing of George Jones on April 26, 2013 was an incredibly tough blow.  Known as a legend in country music circles, Jones was thought to have the finest voice in the history of recorded country music.  His songs told stories, often stories about his own life - his heartaches, loves, times spent partying and more.  His lyrics were catchy and often easy to relate to.  The loss of such a talent weighed heavily on the hearts of his fans.  Portland, Oregon-based indie record label Deer Lodge Records decided to do something to ease the blow: they released a two-disc tribute album entitled Deer Lodge: A Tribute to George Jones.

Featuring artists from all over the West Coast, Deer Lodge: A Tribute to George Jones is a collection of thirty of Jones' best known recordings re-interpreted by bands like Sassparilla, Water Tower, Drunken Prayer, Hearts of Oak, Hank Sinatra, Honky Tonk Union, Hook & Anchor, Neon Renaissance, Tyler Stenson and more.  Having never listened to George Jones prior to his death, I decided to listen to the tribute album first and then check out the original songs to see if they were done justice.

The album starts off with the stomping-good fun of White Lightning, moves on to the sad honky tonk sounds of She Still Thinks I Care and the lover who cheated in Still Doing Time and then its on to the fun sound of The Race Is On, the story of heartache set to the style of a NASCAR race.  Just from those few tracks, I knew I was hooked.  The music got better from there and I decided that I loved the storytelling style of George Jones in sad songs like The Grand Tour, When the Grass Grows Over Me, He Stopped Loving Her Today, Golden Ring and Choices.  I loved the sweetness of ballads like We're Gonna Hold On and Walk Through This World With Me, the hysterical ode to a woman in I Always Get Lucky With You and the hopeful, religion-based tracks like Where the Soul Never Dies and Wings of A Dove.  And who couldn't love the perfect-for-the-bar track Must've Been Drunk?

After thoroughly enjoying the two-disc tribute, I checked out the original songs.  George Jones has a distinctive vocal style that many will try, but none will perfectly replicate.  Thankfully, most of the singers performing on this album decided to sing his songs in their own pitch and style.  Though not exactly perfect in the eyes (or should I say ears) of a George Jones fan, I would consider Deer Lodge: A Tribute to George Jones to be a credit to the man.  The re-interpretations of the original songs are respectfully done and well-performed.  The meaning of the lyrics in each song still gets across and the album is a great blend of Jones' best work. 

Deer Lodge: A Tribute to George Jones introduced me to the legend's music and made me a fan.  I'd say that's the most fitting tribute any album of this kind could make to honor the man who lived and breathed country music.  Traditionalists may not enjoy the album, but fans with an open mind to varying interpretations of their favorite singer's works will definitely want to get their hands on this album.  It will definitely be money well-spent.


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