Sixty-two years ago today, George Jones released the album “Country Church Time” on Mercury Records. It was Jones’ first release on Mercury as well as his first gospel album. Initially, the record did not do well. In fact, it didn’t chart. Today, it is a time capsule that allows us to look back at the early days of one of the best country singers to ever pick up a microphone.
“Country Church Time” contains twelve country gospel songs and was recorded over the course of a few years. There were only three songs on the album that George Jones didn’t write or co-write. Among those is the traditional hymn “May the Circle Be Unbroken.”
The album may not have charted but its influence can be heard today. Those who are familiar with Southern gospel or country gospel music will probably be familiar with some of the original songs on this album. Songs like “The Good Old Bible” and “Cup of Loneliness” can be found in many country gospel artists’ setlists.
George Jones already had a great start on his country music career when he released this album. However, his first musical passion came in the form of gospel music. Jones learned to play guitar and sing in church as a child. He wouldn’t even be exposed to country music until his family got their first radio years later.
George Jones Shines on “Country Church Time”
Part of the reason that “Country Church Time” didn’t chart was the lackluster sound quality of Starday Studios where the album was recorded. George Jones didn’t have good things to say about the “studio” at Starday. In an interview with NPR, he said, “it was a terrible sound. We recorded in a small living room of a house on a highway near Beaumont. You could hear the trucks. We had to stop a lot of times because it wasn’t soundproof, it was just egg crates nailed on the wall and the big old semi trucks would go by and make a lot of noise and we’d have to start over again.”
However, with modern remasters, Jones’ voice really shines. The versions of the songs available on Spotify today sound like just about any other classic country album.
The great thing about country gospel music is that it combines classic country music sound with a faith-based message. So, even if you don’t like gospel music, you can still get something out of listening to it. Songs like “Please Take the Devil Out of Me,” feature classic honky-tonk instrumentation.
So, even if you’re not a huge fan of gospel music, give this album a spin. It’s worth your time just to hear a young George Jones.