Jamey Johnson – “Playing the Part”

Karlie Justus Marlowe | August 11th, 2010

Jamey JohnsonSongwriters: Jamey Johnson and Shane Minor

Before he was appointed poster child for Music City’s mainstream anti-establishment, Jamey Johnson was one of many up-and-coming country artists lured by the publicity potential of reality television.

Despite its short shelf life, Fox Network’s “docu-soap” Nashville–quite possibly the only thing Johnson and Chuck Wicks have in common–can claim at least one victory as the inspiration behind the artist’s new single “Playing the Part.” As the “first” single off upcoming two-disc album The Guitar Song, the tune pulls off a refreshing version of the “Country Guys and Gals” storyline by employing contrast over down-home stereotypes.

While there’s no word on what non-starters “My Way to You” and “Macon” should be considered, “Playing the Part” is a better fit for radio airwaves thanks to an accessible storyline (no eight balls or whores here!) that doesn’t sacrifice emotion and an upbeat production that serves as a nice counterpoint to the heavier material of That Lonesome Song.

As the sonic and geographic inverse of Jason Aldean’s “Crazy Town,” the tune features prominent steel guitar riffs and rough-hewn harmonies that drive home the singer’s preference for simpler times south of the Mason-Dixon. In the same vein of “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma,” Johnson uses the City of Angels’ shortcoming to highlight his rural hometown’s nostalgic pull: “I find it amazing that these rats I been chasin’ are helping me remember a time/When the only L.A. I knew was Lower Alabama/Back when me and Hannah was wishin’ on a Southern star.”

While “Playing the Part,” which will appear on The Guitar Song’s darker Black Album, often comes across as comical, there remains a dangerous disgust threaded throughout the song. Johnson resorts to “depression pills” to make it through his time there, although it’s unclear what he’s more fed up with — the overpriced playland for loose women and liars, or himself for playing along with the whole charade.

Between its biting undercurrent, catchy groove and appeal to southern sensibilities, “Playing the Part” pulls off a tottering balance of commercial viability and artistic edge. While the song’s final funky jam will likely be cut off for flashy recitations of radio call letters, at least it should be a contender for air time.

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  2. [...] As of today, Jamey Johnson’s current single, “Playing the Part,” is available for download via iTunes. (Read Karlie’s review here.) [...]
  1. Thomas
    August 11, 2010 at 8:55 am

    …among the current radio-fare this would be sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb. i wish we heard it sticking out – good song, indeed.

  2. WAYNOE
    August 11, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Jamey has a long road to climb to get radio on his side. I hope he can do it. It is getting harder by the minute to listen to modern country radio anymore.

  3. highwayman3
    August 11, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I completely forgot about Shane Minor and am now recalling his song ‘Slave To The Habit’

    This album is probably the most anticipated for me this fall.

  4. Noeller
    August 11, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I, also, was intrigued by Shane Minor making an appearance here. Loved that guy in the 90s.

    I heard a preview of this song and it’s not bad. I have high hopes that Country radio will take a chance just based on the buzz around him right now, but we’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. I am so unreal excited about this project, the Joey + Rory album, Zac Brown’s new one and Houser’s new material.

    Gonna be a great fall!!

  5. Fizz
    August 11, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I can’t help it, I like the guy. Saw him open for Skynyrd a couple weeks ago, and found him quite enjoyable. And he has that “edge” that I’m so desperately seeking (and not finding) in country music. The burning question still is: is it honest?

    I do wonder if putting out a double-CD might be too much of a risk for a fairly new artist. Drive By Truckers got very lucky with theirs, so who knows?

  6. jeff
    August 11, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    love anything jamey sings..country pop singers GO HOME!

  7. Ben Foster
    August 11, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    It’s always great to hear an artist attempting to balance artist edge with commercial viability. It will also be interesting to hear some up-tempo material from Jamey since he’s best known for the slower song “In Color.”

  8. Rick
    August 11, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    I have to admit my favorite Jamey Johnson song is “The Dollar” as the edgy outlaw style sound has never had major appeal to me from any artist (well except for Waylon’s and David Allan Coe’s better material).

    For the few folks who caught the two episodes of “Nashville” on Fox (before it became website available only) I thought it was nice that Jamey and Mika were reunited in Jerrod Neimann’s “Lover Lover” video! (lol) Mika sure wimped out in the “Amazing Race” though, but she always looked good while doing it!

    If Jamey had not recorded “In Color” and scored at radio (and the music video channels) he would likely now be relegated to the Americana realm. I’m sure glad he gained enough visibility to score concert tour spots and a loyal fan base within the mainstream country marketplace. I hope this single does better at radio than everything since “In Color” has.

  9. Leeann Ward
    August 11, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I thought “the Dollar” was lyrically lame, but liked the sound. When I heard that song, I didn’t think I’d end up being a fan. I try to forget about that song.

  10. Mike Wimmer
    August 11, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    I have my doubts about how it will do at Radio, but I also think Jamey doesnt need a major hit at radio either. I think he has enough fans who tune in to other genres of music, mainly alternative and rock/metal that his album sales and touring sales wont take much, if any, hit because the soccer moms listening to Lady Antelbellum cant relate to this song.

    I love it though, I can see the comedy in it, but at the end of the day I think it’s a dark song about living a lie and being in a place you hate.

  11. idlewildsouth
    August 11, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    I think that’s the thing with all of his music. Even when there’s humor, he’s really covering up a lot of pain. Even “Give It Away” is a sad song deep down. Personally, I haven’t listened to any of the songs, this included, cause Christmas aint no fun if you peak at the presents!

  12. Brady Vercher
    August 12, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    There’s now a link in the review to hear the song for anyone who missed it the first time around.

  13. Tim
    August 16, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Who cares if mainstream radio plays this. The radio is a joke. I still hear Richoet’s “Daddy’s Money” in the rotation here in Minneapolis! They are no where near ready for a talent and REAL sound of Jamey Johnson.
    The CMA’ and ACM’s will probably pass on him too this go around. “In Color” was good, but not nearly his best stuff off That Lonesome Song, and they drooled over In Color (not to mention they helped push Honky Tonk Badonkadonk a few years ago. Jamey was just messing with them on that song and the brain wizards took it hook line and sinker. “I’ll write the worst song ever, they are so out of touch, watch what they do.” )
    This new album may get some Grammy buzz.
    But really, look at the legends that Jamey is influenced by and you can hear their ghosts in his songs. Waylon, Hank Sr…
    These guys got run out by the establishment, but Nashville lives off their names. Jamey doesn’t need radio, awards, etc…as he puts it, he needs a microphone, someone to be pissed off at or in love with, and the rest falls in place.
    Sept. 14 is coming. Pop country’s days are numbered.

  14. Jon
    August 16, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Jamey was just messing with them on that song and the brain wizards took it hook line and sinker. “I’ll write the worst song ever, they are so out of touch, watch what they do.”

    *facepalm*

    Here’s Johnson on “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”:

    “You know, the way I look at it, country music has always had a certain freedom to it where artists can explore different things,” he says. “Even Hank Williams, not every song he wrote was the cold sting of reality. He also wrote ‘Hey Good Lookin’.’ I don’t recall anybody questioning his motives or questioning whether or not he still had his credibility as a songwriter because he rhymed ‘Hey good lookin’ ‘ with ‘What you got cookin’.’ So, as far as I’m concerned, no, I don’t think it should come as any surprise that the same writer would write that and then write ‘Give It Away’ or ‘In Color’ or anything else for that matter. I think that’s what country music’s roots are and its tradition is enriched by that.”

    See also:

    http://www.cmt.com/videos/interview/jamey-johnson/107820/a-personal-story-about-honky-tonk-badonkadonk.jhtml

  15. Jim Malec
    August 16, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Besides, where does this sentiment about Honky Tonk Badonkadonk being such a terrible song come from? Have you looked at how well that song is constructed?

  16. Ben Foster
    August 16, 2010 at 11:50 am

    I think it just boils down to differing opinions, plus the theme of “Badonkadonk” can be polarizing. When a country song is describing a girl with a shapely and sizable deriere, there’s really no way to sell it to me no matter how well it’s contructed.

  17. luckyoldsun
    August 16, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Once you hear the word “badonkadonk” and learn what it means, you know that every country songwriter would have jumped at the chance to write “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”–and they’re probably mostly envious that Jamey Johnson and his co-writer thought of it first.

    I mean Billy Joe Shaver–who wrote a song about being with his girlfriend after hours at Kinko’s and “faxing all night”–would have killed to write “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.”

  18. Rick
    August 16, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Radio DJ chiming in here………playing this tune and getting great response!

  19. Karlie
    August 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    That’s a great video Jon – thanks for posting it.

  20. JEFF
    August 17, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    jamey, thank you for for bringin old style country back, because i was pretty much done with it til i heard high cost of living!!!!!that lonesome song= classic country

  21. Hankaboy
    August 18, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Jamey Johnson is the last true hope for traditional country music! Ask for you
    local station to play this tune!

  22. Tracy
    August 20, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Love this song! New Country, Z100 in Marion-Carbondale IL is playing the heck out of it!

  23. Jasmine
    December 2, 2010 at 9:02 am

    FAVORITE SONG EVER!!

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