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Praise & Blame
on 25 July 2010
This is a wonderful album right through, mixing styles from blues and gospel. It is a significant step away from the recent output of pop songs and radio-friendly collaborations; Praise & Blame captures Tom in full-blown singer mode, rather than entertainer. Indeed, his voice sounds magnificent throughout the album.
The comparisons to Johnny Cash are understandable as there are hints of the American Recordings in the choice of song and also vocal performances; there is a timbre and gravitas to Tom's voice that, while not quite as good as Cash in his later years, really shows his voice off in a way that perhaps his more recent albums don't. This album too is at times introspective like the American Recordings, particularly on the opening track, a cover of Dylan's 'What Good Am I?' or 'Did Trouble Me' where Jones explores questions of mortality. However, I would suggest that the style is more similar to 'Raising Sand' by Alison Krauss & Robert Plant. Blues and country mixes well with the occasional gospel songs on the album, and the tracks move swiftly and comfortably from plaintive ballads to scintillating blues numbers. There is not a weak song on the album and producer, Ethan Jones, is incredibly understanding with the arrangements, more often than not going with 'less is more'.
Tom Jones sounds like he is having a lot of fun on this album and it makes for an incredibly enjoyable listening experience. I hope that this is an indication of his future direction as he enters his 8th decade. Praise & Blame is highly recommended and while the songs are all covers, Tom makes them very much his own.