Tom Jones: Praise & Blame

The glittery showman Tom Jones has gone at the mountain to repent for decades of excess on the gospel and blues-cover dominated Praise & Blame. Sounds a bit hard to swallow, doesn’t it?

Well, it is.

It’s not as if Jones is incapable of performing this material. From Bob Dylan’s “What Good Am I?” to a number of traditionals (some of which are arguably inaccurately credited to Jones and producer Ethan Johns), Jones buries his showy vocal theatrics for a more reverent and restrained baritone. It works sometimes, more often on the upbeat numbers like “Don’t Knock” or “Strange Things,” but feels rather ineffective on the sparser and more grave cuts like “Did Trouble Me.”

The failure to connect on the tracks where the vocals are left alone to shine is a troubling development for the man who made his career on that voice. It could be argued that the easy point of reference—Johnny Cash’s American recordings—makes Jones’ recent effort seem imitative by comparison (a comparison made all the stronger by the fact that both artists cover “Ain’t No Grave” and “Run On (God’s Gonna Cut You Down)”).

In A Word: Curious