There are many new country music fans these days. I have to admit I cannot keep up with all the new pretty boys who appear on the charts each year. For all of their similarities I think that all of these fellows might be mass produced in the same factory.
One successful country singer that will not be mistaken for his cohorts is Jamey Johnson. Johnson looks like a throwback to the rock and roll sixties but sounds like one of the traditional country singers of that same era.
After the huge success of his recent double album, The Guitar Song, Johnson decided the time was right for him to veer even further off the expected path and do a tribute album. I will admit I did not know who Hank Cochran was, but, after listening to the songs on this album, it is a sure thing that we all know this man’s songs.
Johnson, his voice as always sounding like Scotch rolling over jagged rocks, is simply amazing on this album. Never wanting too much of the spotlight on himself, and realizing how much respect there is in country music for Mr. Cochran, on each song Johnson is joined by a well known artist. The combinations work extremely well. If I had heard this album in December it might well have ended up in my list of the year’s best. With it’s recent acclaim at the Grammy Awards my attention fell to it and all of the accolades it has received are well deserved.
All the songs on this album are done well, a few, however, stand out in a spectacular way. The first song to be promoted as a single from the album was a version of Make the World Go Away with the angel voiced Allison Krauss. If you think this is an odd pairing of voices you are correct but it works on every level.
Also of great note is a version of I Fall to Pieces where Johnson is joined by Merle Haggard. Johnson and Haggard are a far cry from Patsy Cline but these gentlemen make her and Mr. Cochran proud. While I do not see Merle doing a duet with any of the male models in cowboy hats that are on he charts these days, Haggard knows and respects authenticity and his joining Johnson here tells you all you need to know.
Willie Nelson, one of the last living of the original outlaws, was a great friend of Cochran’s and lends his voice to two especially strong tracks, “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me?” as well as the Cochran standard and title of the album “Livin’ for a song.”
This is a fantastic album and a great tribute too, if one looks at the list of songs on the record they cannot help being surprised that all of these great and well known records were written by one man. A man named Hank Cochran that few in this generation have ever even heard of. If changing that is the goal of this album, for anyone who takes the time to listen to this music, the mission is accomplished.