New Releases: The Return Of George Jones

Gary Allan, David Ball offer traditional country albums.

The highlight of this week's country releases is a new album from the genre's master, George Jones, and traditional works by two of his disciples, Gary Allan and David Ball. Pat Haney and IIIrd Time Out also have new works, while Dwight Yoakam delivers a soundtrack album.

Jones' The Rock: Stone Cold Country 2001 (Bandit Records) includes his duet with Garth Brooks on "Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?)," which was supposed to be a Brooks single. Brooks canceled the single's release after the September 11 tragedies, however. 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 include Billy Joe Shaver's "Tramp on Your Street" and Jamie O'Hara's patriotic "50,000 Names." The album's first single is "The Man He Was."

Gary Allan's fourth album, Alright Guy (MCA Nashville), finds him continuing to burnish his hard-edged California honky-tonk sound. Country-to-the-bone songs such as the Harley Allen/Carson Chamberlain composition "The Devil's Candy" and Todd Snider's title track exemplify Allan's no-compromise brand of country. His cover of Bruce Robison's "What Would Willie Do" is a tongue-in-cheek paean destined to become a country classic. His first single, songwriter Jamie O'Hara's "Man of Me," is #27 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

David Ball's "Riding With Private Malone" languished on country radio until the events of September 11. The patriotic song concerning the ghost of a dead soldier is at #31 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. Recent years have found Ball's hard-edged country out of favor and he was long without a major-label deal. His new Amigo (Dualtone) consists of 13 songs, including eight Ball wrote or co-wrote. His "New Shiner Polka" reflects his Texas background, 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 "Just Out of Reach."

Rootsy Kentucky singer/songwriter Pat Haney wrote most of the 12 songs on his second album, Ghost of Things to Come (FreeFalls). He continues to explore a gothic Southern landscape 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 (Rounder Records). Recorded live last year at the Mountain Arts Center (MAC) in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, the album is a treasure trove of IIIrd Time Out's fan favorites. Tracks include 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 Dwight Yoakam's soundtrack album to his movie, "South of Heaven, West of Hell" (Reprise). Bekka Bramlett joins Yoakam on "Who at the Door Is Standing." Yoakam's directorial debut, released on video and DVD, features Bridget Fonda, Peter Fonda, Joe Ely, Warren Zevon, Billy Bob Thornton and Paul Reubens.