Hawking Up Hairballs

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Jamey Johnson

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a sports writer who covers the Braves. He also maintains a blog about them on the paper's web site. This writer is also a big-time music buff. At the end of each blog entry, he will usually include the lyrics of some song by a musician that he likes. His tastes run toward rock and country. Last week he included the lyrics to "That Lonesome Song" by the country singer, Jamey Johnson. I liked them, so I sampled a couple of his songs on Amazon and ended up buying his CD of the same name.

Johnson is firmly in the tradition of low-down, country blues, something which he himself recognizes. For instance, the last song on the CD is entitled "Between Jennings and Jones". For those of you who may not know, that's Waylon Jennings and George Jones, and Johnson is somewhere between those to men in musical style. He's also between them in the record bins, a coincidence that he exploits in the song. As I said, he's typical country blues, and all the themes are there. There's a short track right at the beginning of the album where he's supposedly being released from prison, the conceit being that the songs that follow describe his life after leaving prison. I say conceit because he's apparently never been in prison. There's also heavy drinking, women doing him wrong, and him doing women wrong. There's mama, of course, and pickup trucks. The only thing missing from the classic scenario is the dog. It doesn't sound like Johnson has him a dog.

I enjoyed the album, as corny as it is in spots, and it is corny. For instance there's the first song on the album entitled "The High Cost of Living". One of the lines in the song is, "I tell you the high cost of living ain't nothing like the cost of living high." I don't know what it is about country music and this kind of corny wordplay, but it seems to be a part of the tradition. Here's some more of the same from Johnson. He's got a song entitled "Mary Go Round" about a woman who's running around town on him. There are some lines on the CD I like too, at least for what they are. He's got one song called "Angel" about a divorce. I like this line from the song, "...now it's so hard to tell, am I shaking a demon that's after my soul, or sending an angel to hell." Classic country stuff, that. And how about this, "That morning sun made its way through the windshield of my Chevrolet. Whiskey eyes and ashtray breath on a chert rock gravel road. What the hell did I do last night? That's the story of my life, like trying to remember words to a song nobody wrote." Now, that's just plain fine.


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