Album Review: Jamey Johnson – That Lonesome Song

Brady Vercher | August 4th, 2008

Jamey Johnson - That Lonesome Song A lonesome feeling pervades Jamey Johnson’s latest album. It seeps into the smallest recesses of each and every song, providing the mortar that binds them together as that feeling is thoroughly explored throughout the thirteen songs on That Lonesome Song. The polish of the typical Nashville release is missing as are generic love songs and the happy-go-lucky, made-for-radio songs that have become standard fare, but it’s not an entirely dark affair.

After Johnson lost his deal with Sony and his marriage dissolved, he withdrew from the life he knew and didn’t want to talk to anyone. “High Cost Of Living,” easily the darkest song on the album, chronicles his fall to rock bottom and doesn’t sugar coat the harshness of reality, displaying it with gritty honesty. Despite the simple turn of phrase featured in the hook, it packs plenty of significance and nearly reaches the pinnacle of greatness established by songs like Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”

Throughout the album, Johnson displays a proclivity to conceal meaning and emotion behind amusing anecdotes and even nostalgia. Such is the case on songs like “Mowin’ Down The Roses” and “Women,” the latter of which is humorous on the surface, but delving a little deeper reveals it to be a mournful lament about the narrator’s inability to find a fulfilling relationship, yet it also recognizes his behavior plays a role and doesn’t place the blame solely at the feet of women. Behind the nostalgia of “In Color,” in which Johnson recalls the memory of his grandfather, is the lonesomeness felt by the passing of a loved one.

In an age where outlaw has become nothing more than a marketing term, Johnson is the real deal, and That Lonesome Song pays tribute to the man who kicked off the Outlaw movement in the early ’70s: Waylon Jennings. In “The Last Cowboy,” Johnson laments the loss of appreciation for sad country songs and all the things that made country what it used to be, namechecking Jennings in the process. The album closer, “Between Jennings and Jones” is an autobiographical tune about Johnson’s time in Nashville and his place between Jennings and George Jones, both literally and figuratively. And lest anyone think he’s merely paying the man lip service, the only two songs not bearing Johnson’s name in the writing credits are covers of Waylon classics: “The Door Is Always Open” and “Dreaming My Dreams.” The first is a nondescript cover of the original, replete with bouncing bass, but the reverence with which Johnson treats “Dreaming My Dreams” imbues it with an intensity and sorrow that matches Waylon’s recording.

Upon a cursory listen, “Mary Go Round” fades into the background, but like many of the songs on the album, it doesn’t work as background fodder and requires the listener’s attention to be appreciated as Johnson compares a woman who has lost her sense of morality to a children’s ride.

“That Lonesome Song” is an exceptional example of production supporting the song. The first verse is almost solely supported by Johnson’s vocal as he wakes up after a night he can’t remember and starts putting his actions into perspective. As he reaches the chorus, the instruments kick in, forming the hum of a train and signifying a turning point of sorts for both the album and his life.

Jamey Johnson certainly has a lot of talent, in fact the album he put out on his own last year was more solid than this “reissue” by Mercury. The three additions to last year’s project, “Mowin’ Down The Roses,” “The Last Cowboy,” and “Between Jennings and Jones,” are competent, but hardly standout amongst the albums stronger tracks. Two songs from Johnson’s solo release got the axe, “Next Ex Thing” and “Leave You Alone,” the latter of which stood amongst the best the album had to offer. And as far as sequencing goes, “Stars In Alabama” circles back to the beginning and would have made a better choice to close the album as it did on the digital only release last year.

That Lonesome Song has trains and trucks, mama, drinking, heartache and misery, and prison; all subjects worthy of great country songs and indeed, the album can’t be considered anything other than country. It’s not a perfect record–it’s flawed, just like the man that made it–but it aspires to greatness and Johnson hits the mark often enough to make this an album worthy of any collection.

4.5 Stars

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  1. [...] to Stephen H. for letting us know that Jamey Johnson’s song “In Color” is the iTunes Single of [...]
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  1. Matt C.
    August 4, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    What an album. I agree with most everything that you said and also like how Johnson makes musical bridges between tracks, almost like he’s defying you to play him on iPod shuffle.

  2. Rick
    August 4, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Why can’t the labels just leave well enough alone? I had no idea this version of “That Lonesome Song” differed from the indie download only original and that annoys me a great deal. Why do Nashville labels feel they have to “improve” on an artist’s work and vision by messing with it? I’m glad that the changes were as minor as they were. I prefer the treatment Sunny Sweeney received at Big Machine where her indie album was left untouched and just distributed as it was…..

    Jamey’s album is almost an anachronism in today’s country market. Albums of real substance done in more traditional styles, this being Outlaw of course, are so rare these days its almost a revelation when one comes along. This album stands utterly opposed to everything “airhead country” embodies, which makes it a significant achievement besides being just a plain fine album.

  3. Chris A
    August 4, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    I own the independent, digital version of the album and love it. You are absolutely right about “Leave You Alone” and I would encourage people to download that song if you haven’t done so already – great cut.

  4. Chris J
    August 4, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Yeah…I have heard the online record and Leave YOu Alone is a classic and I hope he records it onto a future or I just might download it myself.

  5. Dan M.
    August 4, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Anybody know where we can download cuts like “Leave You Alone”?

  6. Jenna Vercher
    August 4, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    Leave you Alone is by far one of my favorite songs ever.

  7. Trailer
    August 4, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    I cannot wait to pick this up tomorrow!

  8. Chris J
    August 4, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    I may not get it tomorrow but I will grab it next we go to Walmart or somewhere better for music

  9. leeann
    August 4, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I can’t wait to hear this album! I wish I had gotten aboard the Johnson train early enough to have bought the digital release.

  10. Lynn
    August 4, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    I haven’t listened to the album yet, but will definitely check it out! My question for those who have listened is whether or not radio will pick up on it? The review made it seem like a rather dark and lonesome affair and that’s not exactly radio’s thing these days (to put it mildly). ;) It just seems like it would be a shame that a quality release potentially won’t be heard by a large number of people. Any great singles?

  11. Jessica
    August 4, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    I got the album when it came out digitally and then with a little searching, I was able to hear the other cuts. From the day I downloaded it when it was for sale, I have kept it playing.

    I didn’t realize until after I put on headphones on while listening to it, during “Mary Go Round” the song fades in and out just like a merry go round at the carnival. Very neat sound I must say.

    I can’t help but tear up when I hear “Leave You Alone.” Yep, that is a good country song full of emotion. “In Color” is another well written song and brings back a lot of memories looking back on my own family photos.

    I got an email from Mercury Nashville and it said you can do a chat with Jamey about the album on Wednesday at 7PM EST on his website.

  12. Stephen H.
    August 5, 2008 at 1:21 am

    FYI for everyone: “In Color” is iTunes’ free single of the week. I’m buying the CD, but just letting people know. Get the download AND the CD!

  13. Mirandas2cool
    August 5, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    I picked up his cd today, WOW! I didnt know Nashville still put stuff out like this. What an amazing cd. Thats country music!!! Great Cd!!

  14. Trailer
    August 5, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Wow. Aside from Guitar Town and a couple of Dwight albums, this is the best mainstream country record since the 70’s. Period. The only other song I see as hit material is probably “Stars In Alabama” but you never know. “Women” could be a big hit single… in another era.

  15. Todd
    August 6, 2008 at 12:00 am

    I just picked it up today and wow what a great album. My favorite tracks are, “In Color”, “The High Cost of Living”,and “Between Jennings and Jones”. Trailer you’re right there aren’t many song that would be singles but I think “Women” has a chance even today,as well as “Between Jennings and Jones”.

  16. scooter
    August 6, 2008 at 12:28 am

    These are the kind of cds I live for, but are so rare today. Lots of steel, great voice, great writing, traditional- thanks for turning me on to this. Not a bad song on the cd

  17. Paul W Dennis
    August 6, 2008 at 4:12 am

    A terrific CD. Jamey’s take on “The Door Is Always Open” was a real revelation. When recorded by Dave & Sugar 32 years ago, the song was pretty vapid. In Johnson’s version, the song becomes personal. This one deserves the full 5 stars

  18. leeann
    August 6, 2008 at 7:29 am

    I’ll add my voice to the choir. This is an awesome album. As was said above, lots of steel!

  19. Rich
    August 6, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Awesome CD. Experience it with the headphones to hear everything.

  20. Rich
    August 6, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Click on my name for my review.

    Edit: Leave something more substantial next time, or we’ll have to remove your comment as spam. Thanks.

  21. B. Jonathan
    August 6, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Critical acclaim has reached a fever pitch for this once-troubled troubador. Masterful piece of work. Would have loved “Leave You Alone” to make the cut, but this 3-minute movies set to classic country music are all more than worthy. 4 1/2 stars.

  22. Chris N.
    August 6, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Rich has a good point — this may be the first “headphones album” I’ve heard since I started reviewing country records.

  23. Mike Parker
    August 6, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Somehow I felt like the whole was less than the sum of the parts. I enjoyed almost every song as I was listening to it, but in the end I felt like I had just waded through quicksand. This is one depressing piece of work. I have a feeling that with repeated listening, this will be among my best of 08, but I wanted some more musical variety.

    Would you all label this as a concept album? That’s what it felt like to me, especially with the musical bridges between the songs. That convention reminded me of another doomed-to-be-under-appreciated album from this year, Matt King’s “Rube” which somehow felt like the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, but is definitely worth checking out.

  24. Mike Parker
    August 6, 2008 at 10:56 am

    I second that Chris… funny I listened to the first half of this in my car, and the second half through headphones. I enjoyed the second half much more. Hmmm… I’ll go back and see if I get a different vibe going through the whole thing with headphones.

  25. Matt B.
    August 6, 2008 at 11:16 am

    All records sound good if you are as crazy as I am to buy Shure brand headphones. You can hear so many things that were buried in the mix.

  26. Matt C
    August 6, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I love my Shures.

  27. Chris N.
    August 6, 2008 at 11:35 am

    The way Jamey explained it to me (ahemnamedropaheam), it’s not a really specific concept album but it does have a loose story, basically about a guy gradually getting his life together.

  28. Matt B.
    August 6, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Chris, he explained it much the same way to me too (Icannamedroptoo).

  29. Rich
    August 6, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Sorry you thought my comment my be considered spam. Here’s my review:

    August 5, 2008 marks the return of real outlaw country music. Thank You Jamey!

    We may not hear much of this on commercial country radio, but we deserve to. Check back here after the 2008 country music and grammy awards and you’ll see that this will be recognized even if the radio stations that play mostly Taylor Swift don’t play it. If you enjoy country music, if you want to hear about what a man went through when he almost lost everything, the kind of story and music that you get when a record label mostly gets out of the way and lets an artist do what he does best without much meddling, get this, sit back on the front porch some night with a beer and relax.

    Saw him do a couple of live songs in Nashville when I was there for CMA Fest in June. There were hundreds of artists there. This guy walked onto the corner of the stage with an acoustic guitar, sat down on a chair and sang. No lights, no getting tossed around the audience in a giant ball, no fireworks, just a man and a guitar singing about what he went through while holed up in the dark dealing with his demons. I had no idea who he was until he sang a song he wrote for George Strait called “Give it away”. It was a song meant for this album, but he gave it to George and it ended up winning “song of the year” in 2007. I saw Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Josh Turner, Montgomery Gentry, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson….etc……….. but I remembered Jamey Johnson!

  30. Jimmy
    August 6, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    this is one of the best cd’s i have heard since Waylon, Johnny and some of the best songwriting since Hank Sr. and Kristofferson. Wow.

  31. Chris
    August 7, 2008 at 12:05 am

    I’ve been tryin to find leave you alone and my next ex but no luck anywhere can someone tell me where yall downloaded it please. I just bought the album and its all i expected and more…thank god there is still at least one outlaw out there.

  32. Mike Parker
    August 7, 2008 at 12:14 am

    One thing’s for sure, Jamey Johnson is so outlaw, he makes Ray Scott look like El Guapo. I hope he sells a plethora of CDs.

  33. Matt B.
    August 7, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Chris,

    Those songs were included with the original digital-only release of Jamey’s CD. They were replaced with “The Last Cowboy,” “Mowin’ Down The Roses” and “Between Jennings & Jones.”

  34. Hollerin' Ben
    August 7, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    I’ve listened to this album 4 times now, and before I go into this (which I’m not really quite prepared to do yet) is there anybody other that me who didn’t think this was a good record?

  35. Jim Malec
    August 7, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I didn’t think it was all that and a can of beans–mostly because I don’t find Johnson exceptionally compelling as a vocalist.

    But I thought it was a very, very, very good record–and I will say that I like it more as I listen to it more.

  36. leeann
    August 7, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Not me, Ben. Then again, I don’t think Chet Flippo sucks either.:) So, I guess I’m not who you’re asking.

  37. leeann
    August 7, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    PS. I think my feelings on the album pretty much align with Jim’s. While Johnson’s voice isn’t among the best I’ve heard (though I tend to like both smooth and unique, nasally voices), I like this album more and more as I listen to it.

  38. CREEK
    August 8, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    The Best true country artist since the waylon error….AMAZING…if you dont think so, go back to your side walk skipping Kenny Chesney and Rascall Flatts……This is country music the way it was born to sound….

  39. leeann
    August 8, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Ha! I doubt you’ll find Ben listening to Chesney or RF!:) *Can’t stop laughing*

  40. Baron Lane
    August 9, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    I just ran across this guy and couldn’t agree more. A breath of fresh (whiskey laced) air.

  41. Trailer
    August 9, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    I don’t usually correct spelling, but it’s era, not error. I only feel the need to correct spelling when the misspelling changes the meaning of the message. Waylon only made one error as far as I’m concerned – Shooter.

  42. Rick
    August 9, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Trailer, its funny you should say that as Jamey Johnson actually counts Shooter among his current favorite artists and see’s Shooter as a fellow “Outlaw” artist. CMT had a documentary type show where they followed Shooter around on a visit to Nashville and they had to bleep out every other word that came out of his mouth, which didn’t exactly impress me. When I heard Shooter’s debut on the Grand Ole Opry it really kinda stunk. If Shooter wasn’t Waylon’s and Jessi’s kid I don’t think he would have gotten enywhere in the music business…

  43. Hollerin' Ben
    August 15, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    I don’t know, once you get past him mentioning cocaine and whores I didn’t think it was an especially “outlaw” record. If we figure that the songwriting of Kristofferson, Shaver, and Nelson was the definitive element of the outlaw movement, we see that it’s not the bad behaivor, it’s the existential angst that’s compelling.

    I don’t see how namechecking bad behavior is any more credible than namechecking classic country artists. “High Cost of Living” differs from “Sunday Morning Coming Down” or Todd Snider’s “Just like the old times” (also a cocaine and whores song, though in my estimation far superior) in that though it references “outlaw” behaivor it doesn’t give any serious look as to what makes people live that way. I mean, boil it down and it says “yeah, I did bad stuff, that sucked, drugs are bad”. On that note, did anyone else think that him smoking pot in the church parking lot was nowhere near as striking or shocking an image as he seemed to think?

    It’s apparent from the record that he was trying to write real country music, which he deserves credit for, but I didn’t think any the songs can stand toe to toe with the work of those he aspires to.

    “In color” has a kind of neat idea that is quickly beaten into the ground and the verses give some of the most generic depression/world war II/young couple getting married images ever. Not to mention that he mangles the image at the end (“it’s all there in black and white” means print, not black and white photos. which would mean it has to be a pun, but as a pun it’s not a very good one) plus the guitar work is atrocious.

    I really wanted to like this record, but between the “southern rock power ballad” feel on a lot of the tunes, the cheesy musicianship, and the songwriting that is boring often enough, but never offers insights, I just think this was an “all hat and no cattle” type record as far as “outlaw” country records go.

    on the other hand it’s a marked improvement over “Honyk-Tonk badonkadonk” and “ladies love country boys”.

  44. Nick
    August 15, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Im glad to here there are others out there who are tired of the “new nashville sound” thats more or less generic and pop sounding.

  45. Chris N.
    August 15, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    Ben, don’t make me kick your ass in front of all these people.

  46. leeann
    August 15, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Chris,

    Don’t worry, nobody’ll be watching because we’ll all be helping you!:)

  47. Matt B.
    August 15, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Ben,

    Is there ANYTHING ‘mainstream’ that you like?

  48. Brody Vercher
    August 15, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Yo Matt, Ben gave Keith Urban’s “You Look Good In My Shirt” a thumbs up in his single review. Does that count as mainstream?

  49. Matt B.
    August 15, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Sure. It doesn’t bother me at all really if he hates alot of the stuff that’s ‘mainstream’ cause he’s certainly not alone.

  50. Rick
    August 16, 2008 at 12:00 am

    I think Ben’s arguments would have validity if Jamey had recorded this album back when “Outlaw” music was still being made by the great artists of the genre, but not in today’s marketplace. Jamey is trying to resurrect an almost extinct species and as good as he is he wouldn’t dare consider himself in the league with his musical heroes.

    Also “That Lonesome Song” was an independent low budget affair driven by Jamey’s willpower, so the instrumentation you consider cheesey is the result of a non-existant budget. Compared to the vast majority of new so-called country music coming out of Nashville these days “That Lonesome Song” is a relative masterpiece in comparison, and I think those are the grounds on which it deserves to be judged….

  51. roger
    August 16, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    i guess i like “cheesey” instrumentation….sounds a hell of alot better than anything on the radio these days…..this record reminds me of the country music i grew up listening to….i know it’s not perfect but it’s certainly conjures up real country music ….i’m sure this will never get the airplay it deserves….but at least it seems like people are aware of it and giving it a listen….

  52. Hollerin' Ben
    August 17, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    I’m thinking I was being unfair when I said the record never offered insights, so I’ll retract that.

    Matt B.,
    As far as mainstream stuff goes, I think that by and large most of it fails spectacularly at fulfilling the function of country music as it was commonly understood up until the “modern” era and I don’t think its controversial to say that mainstream country music has become much less credible in the modern era. Man, it used to be that rock and roll guys like Dylan, the Byrds, The Band, The Greatful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello, etc etc were all country music fans who looked to the music for inspiration. Now the genre is commonly looked to as a last refuge for commercial pop-rock artists.

    That being said, I find a lot of “guilty pleasure” music in mainstream country. I liked Emerson Drive’s “Moments” a lot, but there’s no way I’d hang out with serious musicians/fans and try to sell it as weighty stuff.

    I do like Taylor Swift though, legit. The subject matter is immature, and the melodies are super pop-rock, but I think that she “gets” country music and the way it tells stories, and I think that she is rad. I thought “Should’ve Said No” especially was really good, but I liked “Teardrops on my guitar” a lot too.

    Rick,
    “Cheesy” was a poor word choice on my part, because it’s not nearly specific enough. I don’t think the low budget aspect of the record was a problem whatsoever, what I didn’t like was the actually playing on the record. The guitar solo on “In Color” is a perfect example, it’s totally souless, 80’s rock wannabe, “hey check out my cool flying v guitar, it looks aerodynamic”, wanking. Throughout the record, I thought that the picking was uninspired.

    Also, I’m glad you brought this up

    Jamey is trying to resurrect an almost extinct species and as good as he is he wouldn’t dare consider himself in the league with his musical heroes.

    Jamey Johnson is a grown man and an established songwriter. If he doesn’t think that he’s in the same “league” as the artists who came before him, than why the heck is he bothering? More importantly, what does that make us?

    Theres an attitude that’s sort of in the ether that is completely crazy. Here we are, serious fans of country music who spend lord knows how much time listening to country music, not to mention reading and writing about it here on the internet, and we’re actually advancing and defending the idea that we’re spending all this time on discussing, thinking about, and talking about artists who are not only are not as good as the people who established the genre, but they aren’t even in the same league? All of this time and effort to follow bush league second stringers?

    If I believed that there would never again be country artists as good as Hank, Cash, Haggard, Jones, Willie, Waylon, Roger Miller, Buck, etc etc, than I’d have absolutely no business spending as much time and effort as I do on country music. If we all agree that the best days are definitely behind us, than what the hell are we still doing hanging around?

    The only standard to measure the Johnson record against is the standard set by Willie, Waylon, Kris, and Billy Joe. I would hope that, as an artist, Jamey Johnson wants to be measured against the best and that he aims and strives to create work of comparable quality. That why it’s our job to be tough on serious songwriters, because we’re the critical community and if we can’t tell them the truth, who will?

    To say that the record is better that Jimmy Wayne or Steve Holy’s new record is ridiculous. Of course it is, those guys don’t seem to be aiming for anything other than the latest disposable radio cut. But if Johnson is trying to create legit country music in the tradition of the outlaws, we need to first assume he’s capable of doing so, and then appraise how close he did, or didn’t, come to accomplishing that.

    I’ll say one last thing though, I’m not sold on Johsnon’s talent. “Honky-Tonk Badonadonk” and “Ladies Love Country Boys” are both not only horrible songs, but bad for country music. Which means that he either 1.doesn’t know how bad they are or 2. doesn’t care. Neither scenario speaks well of him.

    If he doesn’t know that those two songs are failures that insult the audience’s intelligence and works to diminish their humanity than he clearly has no taste and will never be on par with the best, if he knows what those songs were, and was still willing to help tear down an american artform to make a buck, than he’s a scoundrel. Everyone needs to make a living, but its unforgivable to make your living by consciously working to tear down what your heroes sacrificed and toiled to build up.

    I was hoping this record would convince me that those types of efforts were a thing of the past for Johnson, but I don’t think this record ever really got out of the starting gate. He showed up and cut a country record, well done, but he didn’t seem to work hard enough to make a great record here. That or he isn’t talented enough, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s a talented guy who has “seen the light” and now wants to make real music but just figured that as long as he referenced cocaine and whores that everyone would celebrate his arrival and forgive him James Otto co-writes and wanking guitar solos on the radio single.

    Addressing real life with honesty and avoiding modern country’s inclination towards a shallow, suffocating, faux optimism is neccesary for making a good country record, but it isn’t sufficient.

  53. hairandtoenails
    August 17, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    I haven’t heard the entire CD, all I’ve heard is “In Color,” which my radio sometimes plays.

    And most of Hollerin Ben’s points above apply to “In Color.” I sense that Johnson wants to say something “important” with this song, but it comes across as little more than the reverse of Bucky Covington’s “A Different World.” Covington talked about the “good old days,” Johnson of the “Bad Old Days.” (Though there is a hint of complexity when Johnson aludes to his wedding day as a time simultaneously of happiness and fear of the future).

    What exactly does Johnson say in this song, other than “times were hard, but companions try to help each other” and “a photograph can’t fully capture the reality of those times.” Perhaps implicitly the song is telling us that people can and do survive, because, after all, Grandpa is still around to tell the story. But this is hardly an interesting or insightful message, in and of itself.

    Ironically, Johnson’s idea that black and white photos can’t fully capture and convey the reality that color could can be applied to the song itself. Johnson’s short, verse length treatment of important events conveys little emotional complexity. A better song would address poverty, war, and marriage “in color.”

    Perhaps the other songs on the CD are better, but “In Color” doesn’t make me wanna rush out and buy this CD.

  54. Matt C
    August 18, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Ben, I think that you’re confusing Jamey Johnson with Ray Scott.

  55. Thomas
    August 19, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    this album may not be a “milestone” but it surely is a country music “road- sign” pointing in the right direction.
    it’s a most enjoyable listening experience from start to finish.

  56. Hollerin' Ben
    August 20, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    I say something else nice about the record, I really like both of the covers.

    and here’s something else that bugs me about it, why does “That Lonesome Song” have to “rock” and what is with the drum part/ryhthm guitar part at the 3 minute mark? That’s a good example of what I mean by “cheesy instrumentation”.

    Also, why does “The Last Cowboy” need to feature a church bell so prominently? That damn Josh Turner song “Another Try” had a church bell too. The church bell is not an instrument, it’s a special effect (like the sound of horses or wind) and it really has no place in a normal arrangement of a song.

  57. Brian
    August 26, 2008 at 9:05 am

    The reverse of “A Different World?”

    That is a horrible characterization of “In Color.” I think what Johnson is trying to convey is something that I encountered with a WWII vet one time. He told me the stories of his time and life, and watched me sit in amazement. He then said almost the same thing as the title of thiis song. However, behind that statement there was some bitterness in that- you don’t have to live that hardship, because I did.

    Also, as the review mentioned there is a sense of sadness in the narrator missing his wife- it is implied she has passed on, through the lyrics and the musical lead-up to that last verse.

    Outside of that though it’s a shame that some are nit-picking this album to death when it is clearly one of the better albums to come out of Nashville in a long time.

    Also on Ben’s one point about none of the music holding up to any of his superiors. The first time I heard “Women” all I could think was- this is the perfect Waylon Jennings song. I was always a fan of his and have re-developed an appreciation for him because I found a file that let me acquire ~63 albums. The style of song, the message in it, the instrumental parts, and even the singing all invoke Waylon. I think that song, if you want to say nothing else, would hold up with the outlaw guard.

  58. Rich
    August 28, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Jamey must be doin something right, because there sure is a lot of conversation on here and many other places about this album.

    Ben, just who would qualify currently as a great country or outlaw country artist in your valued opinion?

  59. Hollerin' Ben
    August 28, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    It’s tough to say as far as “outlaw” artists because that is a pretty specific movement, but as far as some current (let’s say active in last 10 years) great country artists who “live up to the hype” in a way that I feel Johnson fails to would be guys like

    1100 Springs
    Mike Stinson (greatest songwriter out there today)
    Dave Gleason
    Amber Digby
    Hank III
    Dale Watson
    Wayne Hancock
    Br549
    The Derailers (if not a bit derivative)
    David Serby
    Chris Jones
    The Star Room Boys (now defunct, unfortunately)

    with honorable mention to (since stylistically whether this is “country” become questionable)
    Brennen Leigh
    Jesse Dayton
    Old Crow Medicine Show
    Justin Townes Earle
    Hayes Carll
    Southern Culture on the Skids
    Todd Snider
    Adam Hood
    Chris Knight
    Big Sandy

    and I’m bettin that there’s a dozen more guys who are also rad that I’m not familiar with.

    But just because Eric Church’s whole schtick is a huge lie, doesn’t mean Jamey “I bought my way into the system by proving I’m willing to tear down country music’s credibility with schlock like ‘the dollar’, and mindless, ignorant anthems like ‘honkytonkbadonkadonk’ and ‘ladies love country boys'” Johnson is legit.

  60. Hollerin' Ben
    August 28, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    also, the reason I think it’s so important to be critical of the Johnson record, to make sure that this doesn’t become a coronation, is that it’s important that we stand firm and obstinately hold country music to a high standard.

    Once we say that a record like this is good enough, then this is as good a record as we’re going to get.

    Make no mistakes, I thought this record was probably way better than 95% of the mainstream releases, but I think it’s imperative that we don’t allow the mainstream corporate country music industry to dictate where the bar is set. The bar is set by the best artists out there, not the best artists they choose to promote.

  61. Chris N.
    August 28, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Why don’t you come right out and ask for an ass-whipping?

  62. hairandtoenails
    August 28, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Brian – I stand by my characterization of this as “little more than the reverse of A Different World.” Not the “exact reverse;” of course. I did mention the verse about the wife being better than the other verses.

    Perhaps Brian is right that Johnson is trying to explore a sort of bitterness that veterans feel at having lived through misery so that others can live comfortable lives.

    But if so, that only supports my prior statement that, “I sense that Johnson wants to say something “important” with this song,” but he ultimately says very little interesting.

    Johnson may be trying to hint at some of the things Brian mentions, but Johnson just barely hints at them and never explores the psychology behind these feelings.

    I credit Johnson with having loftier aims than the Bucky Covington’s of the world, who seem content to pander to their audience. But while Johnson may aim at a higher target, he has not hit that target with “In Color.”

    I haven’t heard the whole record, and I don’t claim to judge it. But I have heard the single, and don’t care to hear it again. I suppose “In Color” is marginally better than the typical single on top 40 radio. But only marginally better.

  63. Brady Vercher
    August 28, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    I think “In Color” is more comparable to something like Randy Travis’ “He Walked On Water,” and think any comparison to “A Different World” is far fetched, unless of course you mean to say that one sucked and this one is better.

    Ironically, Johnson’s idea that black and white photos can’t fully capture and convey the reality that color could can be applied to the song itself.

    I think that’s interpreting the phrase “in color” a little too literally. It’s a metaphor for reality, not a literal color photograph.

  64. hairandtoenails
    August 28, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    Brady, I expect my position on “In Color” to be controversial. Perhaps I will be the only one who holds this view.

    I realize that “In color” is a metaphor for reality, and that Johnson isn’t trying to say that kids today could get a better sense of the Great Depression if only color photography existed in 1935. The song has higher ambitions than that banality.

    As I understand the metaphor, “color” describes reality, in its fullness. “Black and white” rather, describes a representation of reality that captures reality in less than its fullness.

    The song “In Color” describes reality in black and white (in the metaphoric sense, at least as I see it). We never get any insight into the characters, and learn only that they felt certain things (pride, fear, an urge to protect each other). We never, for instance, learn why the Army buddies, impoverished Brothers, or Spouses developed such loyalty toward each other.

    The fact that people in all three situations were “trying to save each other,” is ripe with potential for exploration and insight. But nothing ever comes of it.

    And that is where I draw my comparison to “A Different World.” Both songs scratch only the surface of reality and never dig deeper. Admittedly I think “In Color” is a lot better than “A Different World.” “A Different World” presents a dishonest and false view of the past whle “In Color” merely presents a surface view, or a metaphorically black and white view. Anyhow, if the comparison to “A Different World” is inapt, I’m not wedded to it.

  65. Brady Vercher
    August 28, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    I dunno, it’s a grandfather talking to a kid who probably wouldn’t understand anything deeper.

    Let’s take the army buddies for instance of implied meaning. It tells us that his buddy was Johnny McGee was an English teacher from New Orleans. That right there tells us that these were just common men in an unfamiliar place with only each other to rely on, so of course they’re going to develop some sort of bond. And as his tailgunner, Johnny McGee had his back literally as well. There’s kinda duality to it all. How exactly is that relationship supposed to be more fully explored or what insight should it offer that it doesn’t? And if it were explored more fully, would we sit here and say that it’s unrealistic because a kid isn’t gonna understand? I’m not sure that I see a reason for it to fully explore the relationships or how it’d go about doing that. Any ideas?

    Both songs may only scratch reality, but there is no depth to “A Different World,” whereas “In Color” implies a deeper meaning that’s easily grasped.

  66. steve
    August 28, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    you sound like a L.A. sophisticated queer brady v.

  67. hairandtoenails
    August 28, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    If Brady V sounds like an “LA sophisticated queer,” then it must be good to sound like that. Everything Brady has said is intelligent, important, and a prod to others to try to understand their own views better.

  68. Matt B.
    August 28, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    What exactly is a “L.A. sophisticated queer?”

    Because, since when is it ‘bad’ to write about anything intelligently.

  69. leeann
    August 28, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    What an odd comment, Steve. Is this a joke or something?

  70. steve
    August 28, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    to hat and matt and leann, i just been paying attention over a few weeks that brady v. is a know-it-all personality who has criticism for other intelligent comments but can’t hack a slam back, which it also seams this site does not recieve feedback from new but old connections like yourselves. this site blows like brady v. read some of his archives and you will see what a ass and moron he is!

  71. leeann
    August 29, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Frankly, Steve, your comment shouldn’t be dignified with a response. I, however, can’t help but say something here.

    In my assessment, as someone who’s been reading this site for quite some time now, Brady and Brody are rather down to earth. Perhaps their music tastes don’t align with yours, but they are respectful to us, their readers. If your definition of respectful doesn’t include healthy exchanges of disagreements, than what can I say? That’s what the comment feature is for. If we all agreed all the time, things would be rather boring.

    Anyway, I’ve always seen he and Brody as the nice ones around here and I’m willing to guess that their colleagues (Jim Malec, Matt C., Paul and Ben) would be proud to back me up on this assessment.:)

  72. leeann
    August 29, 2008 at 7:28 am

    I think I meant “him” and not “he.”

    PS. To me, modarators who respond to their critics is positive, not morronic. It’s commendable that Brady engages in the conversation rather than seperate himself. If he was really being pompous or an ass, he’d think that he was better than those who comment or disagree with him and refuse to engage in a discourse with us. Fortunately, since he’s not the things you say, he will argue his points rather than assume that we “should just get it.”

  73. Brady Vercher
    August 29, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Thanks for the backup, hairandtoenails and Leeann. I appreciate it.

    This guy started off with the name Tim before he had to switch after sullying that name. He’s used Greg, Darrell, and Dan in the past and is upset about our exchange on the Gary Allan, Living Hard review where he ended up calling me a communist. He also jumped in on one of the Nashville Star live blogs and is just trying to stir up trouble.

  74. leeann
    August 29, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Ah, I remember him/her now! I thought something seemed vaguely familiar and odd.

  75. Rich
    August 29, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Ben, thanks for the info. I’m gonna check out that list you provided. I’m always looking for some good “real” country. Oh and BTW I agree 100% with ya on Justin Townes Earle, I’ve been playin the hell out of his latest ever since I downloaded it about 2 months ago. Gives me hope for the others on your list. I appreciate your honest opinion on Jamey’s CD. I still love his music. You guys keep up the good work!

    Also, on a side note, I met Eric Church while in Nashville in June and he seemed like a great guy and I liked his CD also. What was the reference to his whole schtick being a lie……fill me in, if not here in the public forum, send me an email.

    Thanks again
    Rich

  76. Hollerin' Ben
    August 29, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    “Also, on a side note, I met Eric Church while in Nashville in June and he seemed like a great guy and I liked his CD also. What was the reference to his whole schtick being a lie

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