The mere mention of 76-year-old George Jones's name implies country-music authenticity, which explains why he's saluted in the lyrics of Alan Jackson's "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and at least two Travis Tritt tunes, "Outlaws Like Us" and "Put Some Drive in Your Country." Not that Jones lacks cross-genre appeal: Elliott Smith once said that in his version of heaven, where he's presumably dwelling these days, "George Jones would be singing all the time." Here on earth, however, Jones can only get on hot-country radio via cameos with new-generation Nashville types, and keeping track of them can be a challenge. After a recording session with Blake Shelton earlier this year, Jones praised the younger singer to a Great American Country correspondent as "Darryl" — because they're all called Darryl, aren't they? But there's only one George Jones, and if his voice is no longer the pure-toned instrument it once was, he remains C&W's gold standard, as well as the living singer most likely to be cited by historically minded country wannabes.
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