JAMES KING, “Three Chords and the Truth,” Rounder. 12 tracks

If Ralph Stanley is the “king of mountain soul,” then James King is surely the crown prince.

The man can wring every drop of pain and loneliness from a song.

And there’s plenty of both on “Three Chords and the Truth,” an album that takes its name from the late songwriter Harlan Howard’s classic definition of country music.

All 12 songs are classic country songs done bluegrass style without any of Nashville’s frills.

They range in time from Hank Williams’ 1949 “Devil’s Train” to David Ball’s 2001 “Riding With Private Malone.”

Fans of classic country should love this collection.

It includes a couple of George Jones’ songs — “Things Have Gone To Pieces” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today”; Vern Gosdin’s “Chiseled In Stone”; Cal Smith’s “Jason’s Farm”; Warner Mack’s “Talking To The Wall”; and Don Gibson’s “Blue, Blue Day.”

The collection also includes Vernon Oxford’s “Shadows Of My Mind”; Harlan Howard’s “Sunday Morning Christian” (a song that’s every bit as relevant today as it was in 1971); Billy Joe Shaver‘s “Old Five and Dimers”; and Jim Reeves‘ “Highway To Nowhere.”

They call King “the bluegrass storyteller” and most of these songs tell a story.

King assembled a top notch band for the album as well as a great lineup of songs.

The list of musicians includes Jimmy Mattingly, Josh Williams, Ronnie Stewart, Jesse Brock and Jason Moore. Dudley Connell and Don Rigsby lend their vocal talents, singing harmony.

This is one of the best albums King as recorded. It’s also one of the best albums of the year.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.TheJamesKingBand.com.

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