George Jones, June 23 

George Jones is dead. Or at least, that's what we thought when this country music legend, notorious for no-showing concerts, was called out on stage and didn't appear at Merrill Park in Eagle last Thursday. Instead, a pair of married singers-the woman wearing a crucifix big enough to stake Jim Cavaziel onto-came out and began singing karaoke-style George Jones tunes, as well as a charming little ditty named "Mama Used to Whoop Me With a George Jones Album." Their excuse: They were just working the creaks out of the band. We were baffled. Then "Ol' Possum" finally came out 15 minutes later, and we came to a sad conclusion. No, the King of Broken Hearts isn't dead, but his voice, on the other hand ...

If only the sad-almost existential-dilemma-inducingly sad-creak of Jones's once booming Texas drawl had been the only letdown. Instead, all the voices on stage, from the MC to the roadies to the other band members, all hawked merchandise throughout the show. We're talking dozens of blatant commands to buy shirts, hats, DVDs of "the good years," even George's own brand of "White Lightning Tennessee Spring Water," all backed up by a small army of shills who all but physically crammed goods into the hands (that is to say, snatched the purses) of the elderly audience. I don't want to accuse anyone of propping up an old slab purely for dough (though Bob Dylan's last visit was pretty close) but this was a sad day for country music. Put that stud out to pasture already!

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