Single Review: Randy Travis with Joe Nichols – ‘Tonight I’m Playin’ Possum’
July 5, 2013
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Virtually every country artist that has emerged during the past 30 years has claimed to have been influenced by George Jones, so it was inevitable that the legendary singer’s recent death would spawn a series of tributes. One would be hard pressed to tell from listening to the music of a lot of these “fans” that Jones had any influence over them at all, but there is no doubt that Randy Travis’ admiration for the late singer was sincere. It is therefore, entirely appropriate that he is among the first, if not the first, major country star to release a Jones tribute single.
Written by Keith Gattis, “Tonight I’m Playin’ Possum” is, as one might expect from a song about George Jones and sung by Randy Travis, a traditional country number. It is sung from the point of view of a grieving Jones fan who, fueled by cigarettes and alcohol, vows to spend however long it takes to go listen to the entire Jones discography. The tone is one of unabashed reverence, and references are made throughout to some of Jones’ biggest hits — “Bartender’s Blues”, “Why Baby Why” and of course, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”. Though unlikely to be a huge radio hit, the record should be well received by fans of both Jones and Travis.
There is one glaring problem with this record, and sadly, it is that Travis’ voice is showing signs of substantial wear and tear and at times is almost unrecognizable. As a result, Joe Nichols was recruited as a duet partner to do most of the heavy lifting. His traditional baritone succeeds in compensating for Travis’ vocal shortcomings, and in fact the recording seems more like a Nichols vehicle with a guest vocal from Travis as opposed to the other way around. I’m glad that Joe was available to save the day — and the record — but listening to this tune makes me sad on two counts: that one of my favorite country singers is gone, and that another appears to be past his vocal prime.