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From the archive: Though older, Jones still moves audience

Posted 5:07pm on Friday, Apr. 26, 2013

George Jones was a fixture on DFW stages -- the Possum's final performance here was Oct. 5 at the Arlington Music Hall -- and his death today, at age 81, marked the passing of one of country's music true legends. Music critic Preston Jones wrote the Star-Telegram's final concert review of Jones, in June 2010 when the superstar performed at Bass Hall. Here is that review, from the archives.

It's sobering to see a legend brought low by advancing age.

For 75 minutes Thursday night at Bass Hall, country icon George Jones wrestled valiantly with his still-bristling voice. The 78-year-old singer was dealing not only with damage he did to his body during his hell-raising days, but also with a mundane malady: garden-variety sniffles, brought on by allergies.

Jones was visibly irritated and paused frequently to blow his nose. Still, he displayed glimmers of soul, flashes of The Possum connecting with staples like He Stopped Loving Her Today, Walk Through This World With Me and I Always Get Lucky With You. That inimitable voice, rich with heartache, could not be silenced easily. Indeed, much of the evening felt like outright defiance of nature - the spirit is willing, and the flesh isn't given a chance to be weak.

Backed by the seven-piece Jones Boys, he breezed through his catalog, much to the delight of the 1,300-strong audience, who hollered frequently and greeted the East Texas native with a standing ovation.

It immediately gave the night something of an elegiac cast, a mood intensified by video clips that played above Jones. The startling, black-and-white images of a young, strapping, wild-eyed Jones contrasted sharply with the silver-haired senior citizen on stage. A montage of beloved, now departed friends - Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Conway Twitty - displayed during the poignant Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes only deepened the melancholy.

Jones articulated perhaps the most obvious loss: Nashville's fixation on sexy young things who invest more in wardrobe than learning the craft. "They've quit playin' them good ol' drinkin' and cheatin' songs," he observed, before dismissing the "hot young country" music of today.

He's not wrong, but the torch has not gone out completely. It's been passed to singer-songwriters like Jamey Johnson and Hayes Carll, who still plumb life's murkiest depths, pasting pain into lyrics and melodies.

While they excel at doing so, they cannot touch Jones' brilliance. He is a man who blurred the line between life and art, only too glad to pay whatever it cost.

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