New Releases: The Return of George Jones

Country releases this week are highlighted by a new album from the acknowledged country master George Jones and traditional works by two of his disciples, Gary Allan and David Ball . New titles also come from Pat Haney and IIIrd Time Out, and Dwight Yoakam delivers a soundtrack.

Jones’ The Rock: Stone Cold Country 2001 on Bandit Records includes his duet with Garth Brooks on “Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?),” which was intended to be a Brooks single. After the Sept. 11 tragedies, Brooks canceled the single release. Interestingly, Jones — who nearly died in a car wreck involving alcohol — includes the following disclaimer in the album’s liner notes: “George Jones does not in any way condone drinking and driving and the inclusion of the song “Beer Run” is not an endorsement of such behavior. Historically, drinking songs have been an integral part of country music. George asks: If you do drink, do so responsibly.”

Other notable songs on the album are Billy Joe Shaver ’s “Tramp on Your Street” and Jamie O’Hara’s patriotic song “50,000 Names.” The current single is “The Man He Was.”

Alright Guy on MCA Nashville is Allan’s fourth album and sees him continuing to burnish his hard-edged California honky-tonk sound. Such country-to-the-bone songs as the Harley Allen/Carson Chamberlain composition “The Devil’s Candy” and Todd Snider’s title song are good examples of Allan’s no-compromise brand of country. His cover of Bruce Robison ’s “What Would Willie Do” is a witty, tongue-in-cheek Willie Nelson paean that’s surely destined to become a country classic. The current single, Jamie O’Hara’s “Man of Me,” is at No. 27 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

Ball’s current single, “Riding With Private Malone,” was languishing at country radio until the events of Sept. 11. Now, the patriotic song — about the ghost of a dead soldier — is at No. 31 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. In recent years, in fact, Ball’s hard-edged country found him out of favor, and he was long without a major record label. His new Amigo, on Nashville’s Dualtone, boasts 13 songs including eight that Ball wrote or co-wrote. His “New Shiner Polka” reflects his tenure in Texas (he’s a South Carolina native), he gives a swing treatment to the old jazz tune “Linger Awhile” and he resurrects Merle Haggard ’s seldom-heard “Trying Not to Love You” and Pappy Stewart’s classic composition “Just Out of Reach.”

Haney’s second album, Ghost of Things to Come, is on FreeFalls Entertainment. The rootsy Kentucky singer-songwriter wrote most of the 12 songs and continues exploring the Gothic Southern landscape well off the beaten path. A fact worth knowing: his band is named “The Well Readnecks.”

Bluegrass veterans IIIrd Time Out are releasing Back to the MAC on Rounder Records. Recorded live at the Mountain Arts Center (MAC) in Prestonsburg, Ky., in 2000, the album is a treasure trove of IIIrd Time Out’s fan favorites. Among the songs here are Flatt & Scruggs ’ “I’ll Stay Around,” Jimmie Davis ’ “I Hung My Head and Cried,” Joe Maphis ’ “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke,” Molly O’Day ’s “When My Time Comes to Go,” and Bill Monroe ’s “Come Back to me in My Dreams.”

Also out this week is Yoakam’s soundtrack to the movie South of Heaven, West of Hell on Reprise. Bekka Bramlett joins Yoakam on “Who at the Door Is Standing.” The movie, Yoakam’s directorial debut, is out on video and DVD and includes Bridget Fonda, Peter Fonda, Joe Ely, Warren Zevon, Billy Bob Thornton and Paul Reubens.