It’s been seventeen years - more than half of Courtney Granger’s life - since this Louisiana fiddle prodigy debuted with 1999’s album of French-language and Cajun instrumental tunes, Un Bal Chez Balfa. Though he’s been busy playing sessions and touring with the Pine Leaf Boys, there was apparently a classic country vocalist itching to sing. He’d hinted at this ambition with a 2013 rendition of “You’re Still on My Mind,” but on this all-covers album his fiddle takes a backseat to vocals heavily influenced by George Jones. Granger hasn’t the pinpoint control of Jones, and his growl doesn’t go quite as low, but he’s a terrifically thoughtful and emotive vocalist, whose more open-throated singing adds an original flavor to the Jones-styled runs, bends and slides.
Granger’s selected a number of songs associated with or sung by George Jones, including “Back in My Baby’s Arms Again, “Lovin’ on Back Streets,” “Mr. Fool” and “Beneath Still Waters.” But he’s also excavated albums and B-sides for terrific material written by Hazel Dickens, Dallas Frazier, Hank Cochran, Keith Whitley, Cindy Walker, Bill Anderson and others. He’s accompanied by fiddler Joel Savoy, pedal steel guitarist Kevin Barry, pianist Glenn Patscha and drummer Christian Dugas, and he’s joined in tight harmony by Christine Balfa. Granger’s transformation from venerated fiddler to chill-inducing vocalist may surprise many listeners, but it will please all who miss the Possum’s emotion-drenched singing. [©2016 Hyperbolium]