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Tom Jones and I go back a long time. While on a beach in Barcelona in the ’60s, I was feeling homesick, and over the speakers of a beachfront café came Jones's voice belting out “It's Not Unusual” to perk me up.

Now that he's 70, he's not catching thongs thrown at him onstage, and Rod Stewart beat him to the Great American Songbook revival, so Jones has returned to his listening roots growing up in Wales — gospel and blues. “We wanted to go back to the basics, go back to the source. It was just me singing with a rhythm section....”

Jones is backed by big-name musicians and vocalists, such as Booker T. Jones on keyboards and Gillian Welch on vocals. The arrangements are sparse and the production values include no overdubbing and studio tricks, relying on the still powerful, soulful voice of Mr. Jones to sell the songs.

The opening song is Bob Dylan's religious “What Good Am I,” sounding richer than Dylan. He does a hard-rock version of John Lee Hooker's “Burning Hell,” and the highlight cut is his old-fashioned rock version of the Staple Singers’ “Don't Knock.” But hearing my old friend, the Tom Jones of “Help Yourself” and “Delilah,” singing lyrics such as “when we all rise up together” and “stop, God Almighty, let me tell you the news,” is going to take some getting used to.

  • Album: Praise and Blame (2010)
  • Artist: Tom Jones
  • Label: Mercury Nashville
  • Songs: (1) What Good Am I (2) Lord Help (3) Did Trouble Me (4) Strange Things (5) Burning Hell (6) If I Give My soul (7) Don't Knock (8) Nobody's Fault But Mine (9) Didn't Rain (10) Ain't No Grave (11) Run On
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thestoryteller Aug. 9, 2010 @ 12:18 a.m.

Tom and I go way back too. I've been in love with him since I was twelve, and hearing this, I was invited to be his personal guest at his show at Ceasar's Palace on my 21st birthday. It was the best night of my life.

I don't now how appealing his music is now that he's singing it without the tight pants, but wth, I'll give it a try. He's always had a soulful voice, perhaps his new album won't be so bad. I've had all of the "What's New Pussycat?" I can handle.

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