Jamey Johnson - That Lonesome Song

Fiercely independent, Jamey Johnson recorded much of "That Lonesome Song" on his own prior to licensing it to Mercury Nashville in early 2008.  It's a complete song cycle that chronicles a dark period in Johnson's life.  Like all great songwriters, he's channeled that darkness into a stark collection of timeless songs.

When the album format first became a viable alternative to singles artists salivated because they could create a cohesive album that flowed from beginning to end.  Fans loved it because they could buy albums (vinyl records at the time) and listen to their favorite artists for more than a couple songs at a time.  Labels noticed right-away the financial viability of albums and soon were signing artists to album deals.  But a funny thing happened as vinyl morphed into cassettes and then CDs: laziness of labels to foster albums as event listening.  They continually looked for new ways to exploit old recordings and forced product out to the market with maybe one or two classic tracks.

Jamey Johnson went through a rough stretch in his life during 2006 and 2007 and decided to do what all good songwriters do, use his music as therapy.  He loved classic albums made by heroes like Waylon Jennings and decided that he would make a record that chronicled that dark period.  “That Lonesome Song” is what came about. 

The record starts out with “High Cost Of Living” and it’s a cautionary tale of how one can fall into the hell that is addiction and how it can lead one to throw all of the great things in their life away for the sake of the next score.  While a lot of songs speak about how people have come through addiction to get everything they loved back, “High Cost” simply says that living the high life is nothing compared to hitting bottom and coming through that addiction and realizing what a fool you were to succumb to those pressures in the first place.   “Sending An Angel To Hell” is a stunning song about all the crap that happens to two people when they fall out of love.  The steel guitar is used to good effect to emphasize the crying emotion that happens when two people go through divorce.
“Mowin Down The Roses” features a funky delta blues backbeat that accentuates all the crazy stuff some people do when they go through a break up.  The guy in the song is very angry at the woman in his life and he figures the best thing to get back at her is to destroy stuff she loves the most, like those roses ‘planted in (the) yard.’  It’s funky but the lyric is slightly humorous, the kind of stuff one used to always find on country music records. 

Of the 13 songs on the album only two of them weren’t written by Jamey.  Both songs were previously recorded by Waylon Jennings from Jamey’s favorite album “Dreaming My Dreams.”  They are the Allen Reynolds-penned title track and Bob McDill’s “The Door Is Always Open.”  Co-written with Dickey Lee, the song simply tells an old flame that she can always come to him, even though she’s just gotten married to another guy.  “Dreaming My Dreams” is one of my personal favorite songs of all-time and Jamey sings the classic ballad straight forward and lets the simple elegance of the lyric to be played out without any studio trickery. 

The first single released from the record is “In Color” and in terms of songs with vivid, lyrical imagery you’d be hard-pressed to find any better in 2008.  When you add in the sterling production and Jamey’s vocal performance, this is a master-class of a song that deserves to rise to the top of the charts.  “The Last Cowboy” finds Jamey lamenting the loss of good, old traditional country music.  They say that the country song and artists are going the way of the dodo, which is they’re almost gone.   “Tell Me Who’s gonna ride them away when the last cowboy’s gone?” 

“Between Jennings and Jones” is an interesting song in that it tells the story of Jamey’s life and how, odd as it is, that his music is like his name, it falls in between Waylon Jennings and George Jones.  It’s the perfect song to end a record that’s damn near perfect. “That Lonesome Song” is a record that feels timeless.  It’s the kind of record that people should give to those who wonder what country music sounds like.