With his latest album, The Guitar Song, Jamey Johnson once again proves that honest, authentic country music is still alive and well. The double album is a breath of fresh air in the sea of slick, corporate “country” acts currently dominating the airwaves. The Guitar Song harks back to the classic outlaw era, back when soul, passion and an independent spirit were a must.
The double disc is divided into two sets — the Black Album is dark and moody, while the White Album lets the sunshine in with a batch of positive, redemptive tunes. Johnson injects his trademark honesty and passion into the album’s many different tones.
“Heartache” is a classic tale of a lover done wrong, but Johnson doesn’t wallow in self pity —the song strikes back at the cheating girl with a fierceness rarely seen this side of the 1970s. Elsewhere, “Playing the Part” lampoons the hollow L.A. lifestyle with razor-sharp precision and Johnson’s wry wit. And “Even the Skies Are Blue” is a hauntingly dark confessional that recalls Willie Nelson.
On the more uplifting side, “Macon” is an epic southern rock song with a gospel chorus. And “Baby Don’t Cry” is a tender, heartfelt lullaby Johnson wrote for his young daughter. And “That’s Why I Write Songs” is an honest and intimate ballad recorded in the wee hours of the morning in the historic Ryman Auditorium. You can almost hear the ghost of Hank Williams nodding in approval.
In the end, The Guitar Song is more than just the latest album from one of country’s most promising artists. It’s a bona fide pledge of allegiance to honesty and integrity from the last man standing in the fight for country music’s very soul. And that’s a fight Jamey Johnson sounds as if he plans to win.