The rich, throaty tones of George Jones are one of the most instantly recognizable sounds in county music. Unless this reviewer misses his guess, C&W fans will be hearing that old familiar voice a lot in the coming months — because the Possum’s latest CD release is radio gold. Burn Your Playhouse Down includes 12 previously unreleased duets with some of country music’s most talented and best known artists … as well as a couple of big name rock-and-rollers who have come along for the ride.
“Burn Your Playhouse Down” has its genesis in unused tracks from two previous Jones recording sessions. The first of these was Jones’s 1991 duet album, “Friends in High Places” for Epic Records. The second source of tracks is the Bradley Barn Sessions, which took place in the winter of 1993 for MCA’s record of the same name.
The album’s opening track and its final track have more intimate connections to Jones. Burn Your Playhouse Down begins with “You and Me and Time,” a duet with daughter Georgette Jones. It concludes with “Lovin’ You, Lovin’ Me” sung with ex-wife and fellow country music superstar Tammy Wynette.
The other country artists featured on the album are Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Jim Lauderdale, Shelby Lynne, Mark Chesnutt, and Marty Stuart. Also included are Rolling Stones icon Keith Richards, Dire Straights frontman Mark Knopfer, and rock/country Renaissance Man and singer/songwriter Leon Russell.
Although the tracks on Burn Your Playhouse Down were not released on the albums for which they were originally recorded, one gets the impression their omission was due to considerations of space … not quality. The album certainly doesn’t sound like someone else’s musical leftovers. Every track on the album is solid, respectable country music. However, some tracks stand out more than others:
The most remarkable of the album’s duets is clearly the pairing of Jones and Dolly Parton, singing Parton’s classic “Rockin’ Years.” The interplay between Jones’ velvety baritone and Parton’s high-toned passionate warble is enough to literally send chills up a listener’s spine.
Jones’s rendition of “Tavern Choir” with country musician and songwriter Jim Lauderdale is another one of the album’s standout tracks.
The most memorable of Jones’s duets with non-country artists is his pairing with Rolling Stone Keith Richards for album’s title track, “Burn Your Playhouse Down.” No one will ever accuse this version of “Playhouse” of being an immortal country music classic … but it a posses an irresistible charm just the same. As a county singer, Richards is one stone that should probably keep on rolling … but his enthusiasm is unmistakable and both men are clearly enjoying themselves immensely.
The focus of the album is, appropriately, on Jones and his vocal partners. However, unlike too many other duet albums, Burn Your Playhouse Down doesn’t give short shrift to instrumentation. The tracks on the album are backed by some Nashville’s most reputable session musicians and the voices of Jones and friends are backed by inspired playing on the steel guitar, mandolin, and other instruments.
Burn Your Playhouse House Down is a solid album that will find a welcome place in any country music collection. For serious fans of the Possum, however, with its unique collection of historical recordings and its memorable duet pairings, the album is an absolute “must have”.