.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/6c327fa9978dc0e1d87008eb9cc27b40371d87b9.jpg The Guitar Song

Jamey Johnson

The Guitar Song

Mercury
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4.5 0
September 13, 2010

Jamey Johnson's fourth album opens in a bar, the singer talking to a workingman. When Johnson offers him a drink, the guy orders a double, then puts the singer's problems in perspective. "It may be lonely at the top," he says, "but it's a bitch at the bottom."

Johnson's 2008 breakthrough, That Lonesome Song, established him as an heir to "outlaws" like Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. The Guitar Song aims even higher, with 25 tracks that take the pulse of a country hitting the skids and a country singer hitting the big time. The first disc is called the "Black Album," and black it is — like coal dust. "These are sad times/World-gone-mad times," croons Johnson on "Even the Skies Are Blue." On "Heartache," he sings from the point of view of country music's defining emotion. As a storyteller, Johnson is not short on ambition.

Musically, Johnson is happy to mess with tradition. "By the Seat of Your Pants," from the more upbeat "White Album," rides a funky Stevie Wonder-style keyboard riff, and there's honky-tonk jamming throughout the album. Johnson isn't trying to appeal to everyone. "California Riots" is Johnson's "Okie From Muskogee," a statement of Southern allegiance that imagines an unspecified Golden State uprising: gays vs. fundamentalists, legal-weed fans vs. teetotalers — who knows? It's a bit reactionary. But like the entire set, it rings true to one man's unshakable vision.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Road to Nowhere”

    Talking Heads | 1985

    A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com