Wednesday, September 19, 2007

George Jones & Melba Montgomery

George Jones' best known duet partner was his one time wife (and Country music legend in her own right) Tammy Wynette. But he recorded many fine duets with other female artists, most notably Melba Montgomery.

When she first arrived as a solo artist, Montgomery's deep, husky voice earned her comparisons to George Jones. Jones thought their vocals would mesh well, and his instincts proved right as they notched six hit singles together between 1963 and 1967.

Though she never became a huge star in her own right, Montgomery did manage a number one Country single and surprise pop-hit with "No Charge" in 1974. A mother's response to a child's request for money, "No Charge" is the world's biggest guilt trip set to music. (Tammy Wynette later covered the song with her and George's daughter Tina playing the part of the greedy tot.)

As for these sides, "Let's Invite Them Over" was the duo's second hit single in 1963, and "Party Pickin'" was their final chart entry in 1967. There is a barely unspoken subtext to these two songs that suggests the conservative world of Country music was not entirely untouched by the sexual revolution that unfolded around it. Whatever it is George and Melba were inviting their neighbors over to do in 1963, they sure sound real guilty about it. By contrast, the cut from 1967 has a rowdier tone, and the couple is willing to quickly forgive each others' indiscretions without guilt or apology (or is it the thought of the indiscretions that turns George into a "tiger" at the songs' end?). If you ask me, this is very dirty music.

Capitol released a good compilation of the duo's United Artists sides back in the mid 90s that has fallen out-of print. Hollywood Records released a cut-rate compilation of some of the later sides they cut for Musicor. Sporting crummy art work, no liner notes, poor sound quality and spotty tune selection, George Jones & Melba Montgomery is the kind of CD you typically find for sale in truck stops. Unfortunately, the only other way to find most of the music on it is to track down the original LPs (which is not a bad idea).

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