In 2007, singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson independently released his album That Lonesome Song after being dropped by BNA Records. The following year, the LP, co-produced by Johnson with Dave Cobb, was picked up by Mercury Nashville and the set’s first single “In Color” became Johnson’s first – and thus far, only – Top Ten hit. The nostalgic ballad, a tender reminiscence between a grandfather and his grandson while poring over a lifetime of memories captured in photos, would go on to sell more than a million copies for Johnson, who wrote the song with James Otto and Lee Thomas Miller. Although Trace Adkins was initially set to cut it, Johnson talked him out of it so he could record it himself. It has since been recorded by Adkins and is featured as an iTunes bonus track on his 2008 LP, X.
The latest version of “In Color,” in recognition of its 2009 CMA Song of the Year honor, is another of the Forever Country cover series celebrating 50 years of the CMA Awards. The song finds the perfect match for Johnson’s poignant baritone in young country star Scotty McCreery, who was 15 and less than two years from his 2011 American Idol victory when Johnson hit with it. McCreery had sung it during his first-ever competition, 2009’s “Clayton Idol,” in Clayton, North Carolina, which he won. Although his vocal delivery lacks the gruff quality for which Johnson has become best known, McCreery, backed by acoustic guitarists Jeffrey Harper and Dylan Rosson, imbues the song with a deep, affecting sense of home and family.