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Whos Gonna Fill Their Shoes / Wine Colored Roses
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  • BGO's 2011 two-fer pairs George Jones' 1985 album Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes with its 1986 sequel, Wine Colored Roses, two albums that arrived just as Possum's popularity was beginning to downshift into a lower gear. George mourns the twilight of the country titans on the title track of Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes, implicitly acknowledging his place among them, and although his lament has lost its power over the years -- almost every one of the singers name-checked in the song wound up having at least two other decades added to their career -- the album as a whole has a burnished sunset quality to it, Jones and producer Billy Sherrill quite clearly touching upon past glories, always looking upon the past with rose-tinted glasses. Even the album's obligatory novelty, "A Whole Lot of Trouble for You," is a laundry list of brands from the past, its parade of products sitting quite comfortably with "The One I Loved Back Then (The Corvette Song)" or "If Only You'd Love Me Again." There's a skillful blend of ballads and honky tonk, spiked with just a little bit of Nashville corn, but Sherrill's clean, contemporary production, tastefully dressed with echoes and synths, winds up sounding older and fussier than George himself, keeping the album somewhat at a distance even if its best moments have lots of life, whether it's sorrowful or joyful. Wine Colored Roses is cut from the same cloth as Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes but it has a distinctly different feel. Billy Sherrill has peeled back some of the slicker, poppier elements of his '80s productions -- these still surface toward the end of the LP, with "If Only Your Eyes Could Lie" easing along like a country crossover Alabama could have sung and synths sprucing up "These Old Eyes Have Seen It All" -- leaving the album feeling a bit purer than its predecessor. It is by no means sprightly, with only the novelty "The Very Best of Me" boasting a tempo approaching a trot, but this is a comfortable setting for George, and he sings expertly, his surroundings never masking his gossamer phrases. Everything is in place for a fine album, apart from the material: there are a couple of songs that hook in the mind, like "If Only Your Eyes Could Lie" and "The Right Left Hand," but most of the album is merely competent, pleasing only on a generic level. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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