As my friend Baron Lane of the Twang Nation blog has said on more than one occasion, "not all music from Music Row is garbage." When he was saying these words, he was talking about the great Kacey Musgraves, but I know he would agree that those words also apply to one of the real outlaws of modern day country music, Jamey Johnson.
I have long been a fan and supporter of Jamey Johnson, his work and his desire to complete his craft in his own way. It is in the similar vein of one of the original Outlaws, Waylon Jennings. For better or worse, the music business has changed from when Mr. Jennings would try and do things differently. Waylon was able to score a long and lucrative recording contract extension from RCA Records, his longtime record label home where he scored his most memorable and successful hits. This attitude more or less got Jamey Johnson kicked off of his major record label. Most (and I suspect Jamey himself) would agree that this turn of events was the best thing that happened to his career ... doing things your own way, in your own time and on your own terms can be very liberating. It shows in his performance.
My vacation took me away from my usual time in Nashville for the Americana Music Conference and Festival this year, and brought me to the New England states. While there, my wife and I attended the Jamey Johnson performance at the Indian Ranch Amphitheater in Webster, Massachusetts. And what a performance it was. To attend a Jamey Johnson show is to attend a lesson in the history of modern country music. Mr. Johnson indeed took the sold out attendees to school on this September afternoon.
Opening up with "Playing the Part", a top 40 track from his award-winning album "In Color", and following up with an ode to the beloved record executives that he has no time for these days, Jamey deftly moved from hits that received some airplay such as "High Cost of Living" and his signature song "In Color", to the most popular song he wrote for someone else, that being "Give It Away", a monster hit for George Strait. But it was the history lesson Mr. Johnson was teaching that were the highlights of the show. Covering his well known influences such as the aforementioned Waylon Jennings ("Luchenbach, Texas"), to Johnny Cash and a surprise performance of the great Don Williams hit "Your My Best Friend", Jamey showed he has all the bases covered when it comes to showcasing the country music of the late 1950's to 1970's that laid the groundwork for the artists of today.
It has been well documented of Jamey's longtime and deep friendship he shared with the late, great songwriter Hank Cochran. Mr. Cochran was represented very well in this set by Jamey's stirring rendition of "I Fall To Pieces", written by Hank Cochran and became a classic hit known the world over as performed originally by Patsy Cline. Another of Mr. Cochran's compositions was performed as well, as Jamey gave a nod to "the Voice", Mr. Vern Gosdin with "Set 'Em Up Joe", a song that reached number one for Vern in 1988 and was covered on Jamey's "The Guitar Song" album.
An artist like Jamey Johnson comes along once in a generation. He has the ability to unify the past with the present by educating the audience on the importance of both. Jamey accomplishes this by delivering an outstanding musical performance with songs that have affected and influenced his career. He responds to the pressure of being a standard bearer for the traditional side of country music and its outlaw ways by writing and performing songs with thoughtful lyrics and stories which paint a picture of all the elements of the great country songs of the past ... love, loss, happiness, revenge, marriage and divorce, with no sign of the tailgate parties that so over-populate mainstream country music today. Jamey continues to tour throughout the fall, check out his tour page and mark the calendar to check out this one of a kind talent and entertainer. In the meantime, enjoy this clip of Jamey's track "Between Jennings and Jones."