Album Review: Jon Wolfe – It All Happened in a Honky Tonk

Karlie Justus Marlowe | November 12th, 2010

Jon Wolfe - It All Happened In a Honky TonkMini Me Records has a certain ring to it, no?

With a recent spat of talented sound-alikes (and a less-than-impressive performance at the recent 2010 CMA Awards), George Strait would be remiss not to at least register the website domain. Like Easton Corbin before him, newcomer Jon Wolfe would make an obvious addition to the roster – and not just because Strait’s nephew Trey Strait was his former manager or he performed at the King’s 2006 New Years Eve party.

Uncanny vocal similarities aside, Wolfe’s second album It All Happened in a Honky Tonk revels in its familiar take on bourbon, beauties and barrooms in a way not too dissimilar from Strait’s neotraditional neighbor Clay Walker. (Fun fact: Before his record label folded in 2007, Wolfe was set to release “She Won’t Be Lonely Long” as his debut single.)

Wolfe shares Walker’s uncanny knack for taking songs with cringe-inducing titles such as “Let a Country Boy Love You” and “His New Baby” and weaving them into delightful twists on standard country themes. Standouts “Sweet Little Song and Dance,” “Play Me Something I Can Drink To” and “Something to See” are so radio friendly it hurts, albeit it in a satisfactory, blisters-from-my-boots-after-two-stepping-all-night kind of way.

There’s hardly a throwaway in the bunch, though the title song is easily the album’s weakest. Its cheese-tastic scripted intro and outro hold the album back from feeling polished enough for Nashville standards, but the kitsch barely dims Wolfe’s likable, authentic delivery of straightforward country music.

The Oklahoma native has built up a following in his home state and Texas, and it will be interesting to see if the niche Corbin and Chris Young have carved out on mainstream country radio is wide enough for Wolfe. Perhaps it sounds so good because we’ve already heard it – and enjoyed it – all before. Either way, neotrad-philes won’t regret adding the album to their regular rotation, and should probably think about snagging that URL before Strait does.

4 Stars

  1. CMW
    November 12, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Nice review, Karlie. I’ve been listening to this one today on your and Brady’s recommendation. Good stuff… I’m glad people are still recording music like this.

    He looks remarkably like Clay Walker in that cover shot.

  2. Occasional Hope
    November 12, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    I like this one too.

  3. Rick
    November 12, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    I was paying attention until Jon was compared to Clay Walker. You win some, you lose some…

  4. AtlantaFan
    November 13, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I went to YouTube to give him a listen. Nice voice. Hope I hear him on the radio.

  5. Tolbert
    November 13, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    I heard this album a few weeks ago. Outside the cowboy hats and the fact that they cut the same song, I don’t hear much in common with Clay Walker. Walker to me has a more “pop” sound like a Kenny Chesney where Wolfe is more traditional like Strait or Clint Black. Regardless of who he sounds like this guy puts out a very strong country vocal. I’d expect his name will become more familiar in the country scene.

  6. Carmen Garcia
    November 13, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    From the first time I heard Jon, I liked his country voice!! Then after seeing him perform at Hill’s Cafe, in Austin, Texas, it was confirmed that he was born to be a singer!! His warm, sincere welcoming appearance reminds me of George Strait. The way he mingled with his fans only showed his appreciation for his success thus far!!

  7. Michelle
    November 14, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    In these days of cookie cutter “American Idol singers,” Jon Wolfe brings back true soulful, heartfelt ballad singing…a lost art in today’s “marketing” music world! Jon Wolfe breaths new air into the roots of authentic country artistry! A gem true to country roots with a new face bringing back an old tradition!

  8. bob
    November 15, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I agree, sounds like early George in a way
    People dont relize music has to evolve
    Nothing stays the same, country muusic is no different it has to take a path, I like the old sound, but I like the new sound too, just the way it is. your talking about different generations in writers, A writer in the 70s views the world differently then say a writer of today. So inturn you’ll get a different take on things, Same storys just seen and translated differently.

  9. BAMBI
    November 15, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Funny, this album caught my eye because I thought it looked like a Strait album. Something Wolfe’s smile and perhaps the lettering and artwork. . .

    As a Strait fan, I am not sure how a feel about all these sound-alikes sounding so good when Mr. Strait’s latest material is sounding so. . . er . . . bad.

  10. George/Lynne Scholz
    November 15, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    We’ve been following Jon Wolfe since 2004. Were struck by his Amazing, Rich Vocals, Talent and his interaction with his audiences ! Great Guy and this is a Terrific Album ! Hard for us to even pick a Favorite Song from 5 or 6 Favorites! So glad someone as astute and knowledgable as Karlie gave Jon such Glowing Praise and 4 STARS!! Also glad Karlie mentioned and recognized Jon’s song picking and “She Won’t Be Lonely Long” … no knock on Clay Walker but you should have heard Jon’s Version!

  11. douglas van
    February 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    i saw jon about a year ago at the winstar in okla.
    he sang a song called “bad news” i’m curious if he
    ever recorded it.his first album is one of my fave’s ..almost gone .here’s wishing you the best jon..good luck

  12. Simmie
    February 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I seen Jon this past week at the Fire House Saloon in Houston. He put on a very at home down to earth performance, sort of a through back in a sense. I was turned onto his music by a friend who plays in the Jon Evan’s Band. I found his music to be a breath of fresh air breaking through the polluted new pop country music we have grown custom to hearing lately. Most new country artist these days are not what I consider country, Jon Wolfe is traditional country music. His New Baby, I Don’t Dance, and Play Me Something I Can Drink To have got to be my three favorites on this new album. His New Baby has that catchy choirs that would be perfect for the radio, while I Don’t Dance is just one of those songs that expresses how we’ve all felt at one time or another. He just has the nerve to sing it in a song. While Play Me Something I Can Drink To is a song I will end up listening to over and over again.

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