Things I didn't expect about the new Tom Jones record: 1. There was going to be a new Tom Jones record.
2. It would be released on Lost Highway, label of Hayes Carll and Black Joe Lewis and Ryan Bingham and Ryan Adams and Lucinda Williams and on down that particular line of music.
3. That the new Tom Jones record on Lost Highway would be really cool.
I mean, does that sentence even make sense?
Because Jones is kind of a complicated figure. Some will read that and say, "Of course he does, he's Tom Jones." Then they'll throw their underwear and room keys before going back to the slot machines.
Others will read that sentence, brows furrowed, and say, "You might as well have just said, 'The duck and the cat are sharing a six pack on the Space Shuttle' -- and said it in Quechaua."
Anyone possessing even the smallest of the skepticism genes would have to think: Seriously? In 2010, the 70-year-old guy who did that cheesy "What's New Pussycat?" made a cool new record? No he didn't. Shut up.
But he did. He totally did.
"Praise and Blame" is 11 songs of classic American gospel and blues sung by a Welsh hero still in full possession of a big voice. It's sparse and hot and powerful. You can almost see a Southern heat coming off it as Jones (with much help from producer/guitarist Ethan Johns) runs through tunes by the likes of Bob Dylan and Billy Joe Shaver, John Lee Hooker and Rosetta Tharpe.
He covers "Ain't No Grave," the title track of the final Johnny Cash record (also on Lost Highway), and so lines are drawn between "Praise and Blame" and the work so-adored work Cash did with Rick Rubin.
Well, those were so adored because they were good and they were good because they showcased an icon aging gracefully. At 70, Jones needed to step away from sex symbol status. The guy's kept in shape, but a few years ago when he played the Schnitz, he popped the top couple buttons on his shirt, and women screamed and it was ridiculous.
But when he sang "Green, Green Grass of Home," it was moving. The one thing Jones has always been able to do is sing, if you could just focus on his voice. And his voice works these songs expertly. Seriously.
Ryan White, The Oregonian
Read the review here