With his black cowboy hat Billy Yates looks like a country artist, so he should as he has always played country music. He plays it straight up and often close to the mainstream. But as the direction of that mainstream shifted he has increasingly, like a lot of other traditionally minded artists, found himself relegated to the margins. There's nothing here that should not fit on country radio but as their closely defined demographic changes the harder it gets to hear such songs finding their place on playlists.
So Billy Yates does what he does best, he keeps making solid albums. Albums which he produces himself using material he's written on his own or with a number of equally like-minded co-writers. He also uses a selection of the best studio players such as Eddie Bayers, J.T. Corenflos, Mike Johnson and Glen Duncan. Names you see on many a big label album. Recording in Nashville, this will raise a smile on the face of anyone who likes it how they used to do ten years ago and more.
Yates has a believable solidly country voice that is seasoned in the great voices of country music. While he would never place himself in the same vocal category as the album's title subject - the late great George Jones - he does a great job on these songs. The opening track is the title song and a sincere tribute to the man he admired and learned from. In fact the album closes with a bonus track, Choices, a song recorded by Jones that was written by Yates and Mike Curtis and which features Jones here in a duet with Billy Yates. It is a song that tells us that we all have choices and those choices sent us down a particular path for better or for worse.
Choices is one of many fine songs that Yates has penned that fit a format that could only really be called "country". Songs like I'm A One Man Band, about fidelity, Till The Old Wears Off, That's Your Memory On My Mind, Sad Songs or The Man I Used To Be. Love - lost, found and strayed, is at the heart of many of Yates songs but there's also an amount of humour in place too. This album runs through a range of emotions that will strike a chord with many. Such is Yates way with a country song.
Billy Yates so obviously loves what he's doing and there's a lot of people out there who do too.