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The Cold Hard Truth ()

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Touted as George Jones' return to hardcore country, Cold Hard Truth -- the Possum's first record for the revitalized Asylum Records -- certainly does achieve that goal. Under the guidance of producer Keith Stegall, Jones returns to the sound of his classic Mercury and UA recordings, meaning that there's nothing but honky tonk ballads and ravers throughout. Impressively, Stegall made sure that Jones didn't take the easy way out: there are no covers or superstar duets, just strong new songs. And, unlike almost any of Jones' previous albums, there's not a single novelty or throwaway. In short, it's the album hardcore fans have said they've always wanted Jones to make. Like most realized fantasies, Cold Hard Truth doesn't quite live up to the imagination, yet it still delivers enough that it isn't a disappointment. Much of the credit must be given to Stegall; his production may be a bit too clean and echo-laden, but he made a wise move in adhering to simple, traditional instrumentation and guiding Jones toward a great set of songs. George sounds terrific, not necessarily better than on his latter-day MCA records, but the strength of the material makes it seem so. For all of its virtues, there's a curious distance on Cold Hard Truth, possibly because it's too careful in both its song selection, and there's no grit in the production. Silly songs and rushed performances always gave Jones' albums character, and it's hard not to miss that reckless spirit on Cold Hard Truth, no matter how good the music is. But ultimately, such complaints amount to nitpicking. There's little question that Cold Hard Truth boasts the finest set of songs Jones has had in nearly two decades, and he delivers the performances they deserve. It's refreshing to finally hear a Jones album that holds up from beginning to end. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi Hide synopsis

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